Maintaining family wellbeing during the Covid 19 lockdown

Looking after our family wellbeing is a priority at this time. Here is some good advice from John Sharry, one of the founders of the Parents Plus parenting programmes.

Prof John Sharry, Parents Plus

With colleges, schools and childcare centres closed in most areas, the Covid-19 crises has instantly changed the lives of most families worldwide. Pushed tightly back into our family units without much outside contact, relationships have been put under pressure.  Stressed parents struggle to balance working and caring for children all day and bored children have to manage without normal social contacts and  school routines.  Not surprisingly there has been a big increase in family and relationship stress and child behaviour problems. Below are some tips for managing family relationships through this crisis

  1. Manage your own stress
  2. Attending to adult relationships in the family
  3. Talking to children about their worries
  4. Structuring the day/ Creating a family routine

First put on your own oxygen mask before you attend to your children

As a parent, the most important thing you can do for your own children is to first manage your own level of stress. The more you are coping and feeling positive the better you will be able to attend to and care for your children. Children need cared for parents who can care for them. The first step in helping your children and reducing family stress is take steps to ensure you are coping first. This is good for you, your children, your partner and the other adults in your family Learning to manage stress and to cope effectively are covered throughout this module (LINK to SECTIONS)

Stress can have a negative impact on your personal relationships with your partner and the other adults in your family. When affected by worry or depression or stress, we can become much more irritable with those close to us or we can cut off and become unavailable. Being pushed together in family isolation can aggravate tensions and difficulties. If you are a separated parent you can have the added stress of negotiating with a parent outside your home or if you are a lone parent you could feel more isolated if you are cut off from your usual supportive adult relationships outside the home.

Take time to understand

Take time to understand what is going on between you and your partner or other adults in your family. Expect that relationships might be strained  and that you and others may become irritable and upset at times. Remember that with a bit of thoughtful understanding, stress does not have to drive you apart but instead can bring you together and deepen your understanding of each other. Rather than fighting each other over the crises, recognise that you are in this together and work at finding solutions.

Listen well

The most important communication skill is listening. Listening is the best way to stay connected with a close family member and a crucial first step to resolving conflict. When your partner is upset take time to first understand what is going on from their perspective. If they get snappy, rather than reacting try to pause and listen first. Give space and time for them to express their feelings and thoughts – ‘you sound upset, what is bothering you at the moment…tell me what is the matter’. This can take the sting out of stress and upset. Whether  you are parenting in the same home or as a separated couple, taking time to understand the other parent’s feelings and what is important to them is crucial to getting  on better and reaching agreements.

Communicate well 

Equally important is to communicate your own feelings and thoughts. Rather than being angry or passive aggressive, the goal is to find an assertive respectful way to communicate your feelings and state what you need.  Using ‘I’ statements is often a good way to do this ‘ I feel this when this happens’ or ‘I really need this to happen’ or ‘this is important to me’. Find your way of assertively and respectfully communicating that gets through to the other person.

Make agreements

Rather than just winning the argument or getting what you want, you need to find ways that you both get what you want. This is the only way to maintain and good relationships. The ideal is to find  ‘win-win’ solutions that work for everyone. And when this is not possible the goal is to make an agreement where burdens are shared and you both get something of what you want. Making and keeping agreements is the key to building trust in relationships.

Just as parents are understandably alarmed and worried about current crises so are their children and teenagers.  Rather than avoiding difficult conversations it isbetter to be proactive and to plan how and what you might talk to them.

Use child-centred language for young children

In talking to young children it is important to take time to explain the message using concrete child-centred language that they understand.  For example, to explain why your 4 year old can’t visit Nana during the crisis you might say ‘There is a virus, called Covid19, that makes old people very sick. Children can carry Covid19 but not know they have it. So we can’t visit Nana in case we give her the virus. The good news is that we can talk to her and see her on the phone. She misses you very much and loves when you show her pictures or when you read your books together over the phone at bedtime’

The key is to show children how they are helping others by their actions. You are showing how your daughter can protect Nana and also be kind to her by keeping in touch.

You can also use pictures or drawings to your children to explain how the virus spreads and importance of washing hands and social distancing. There are many children’s picture books just published online to explain all about the virus that you might be able to read together

Use adult explanations for teenagers

As your children become older and your explanations need to be more adult and scientific. Teenagers appreciate being taken  seriously and being treated like adults on the same level as their parents. Be proactive and find ways to raise the issues with your older children. It is always better that your children are talking to their parents rather than relying on unreliable sources such as social media or peers.  A useful strategy might be to watch the news together and to then debate and think through the issues with them. Alternatively, you can review some reliable health information on Internet together which looks at all the facts and the protective actions you can take –  this might be a good way to calmly go through the facts and to help you both think how best to respond.

Listen carefully

Make sure to listen carefully when your children raise worries and questions. If  your teenage daughter talks of exaggerated facts, respond calmly and ask her ‘ where did she hear that from?’ If your son worries about who might die due to the coronavirus, give him space to express his thoughts and feelings – listen to his underlying worries. While you can reassure him that so far no young children have died, this may make him worried that older people ( such as his parents) may be at risk. Acknowledging this worries and putting them in context of reliable information is the best approach. You want to encourage your children to talk to you and to keep communication open. You want to give them the message that you can handle their feelings and worries

Use a positive tone

Parents are often worried that difficult facts might scare children. In reality, it is how things are explained rather than the facts that scare children the most. Vague inconsistent and confusing answers from anxious parents make for anxious children. When you are talking to your children, think through what you want to say so you can be calm and clear about what is going in they have to do.

Explore positive actions

Empower your children and yourself by focusing on reasonable actions that you can take to keep them safe. This can include agreeing good hand washing routines and new ways of greeting people outside the home ( e.g. waving instead of hand shaking). If you have to stay at home for a period, involve them in preparing a list of what food you will need and what fun activities you can do at home. Remember taking safety actions does not have to be a morbid serious affair. You can make of game of learning how to wash hands properly seeing who can follow video instructions the best. Also, there are lots of funny videos online that describe new ways of greeting or keeping safe distances when shopping.

Each family now has to adjust to new pressured circumstances of trying to study, work confined in the same household without the usual organised social activities outside the home. Learning the structure the day and creating a new family routine is a way to make this more manageable.

Build the day around mealtimes

Build your daily routine around family mealtimes.  One silver lining in the crisis is the opportunity for families to have more healthy home cooked meals. Involve children as much as possible ( according to their ages) in planning, preparing, cooking and cleaning up after meals. The more tasks are shared, the more family bonding and shared pride there will be. With older children you can set up a weekly schedule for meals, alternating who is cooking/ washing up and ensuring everyone gets their favourite meal included

Set aside parent work times

Set aside spaces in the day when you can do your own thing while the children are doing their own thing ( eg homework or play). This might facilitate you doing work projects or leisure time. If your children are very young and don’t easily give you space, then you might alternate child minding with your partner throughout the day. If you are parenting alone, then this time might occur when the children are watching TV, napping or asleep in the evening o.

Through the course of the day, the goal is to alternate between time together and time apart. Creating individual space and time, while in the same house with others is the key to survival

Plan some play times

Rather than responding to your children’s request to play throughout the day, try to set aside couple of fun play times in the day when you can give them your full attention. This might be doing a craft together, or a family game in the evening or watching a family TV show or doing a video call to granny together. Set one or two interesting goals each week that you can look forward to, whether this is trying a new game, learning something, doing an online quiz with extended family and friends.

Relax about homework

Rather becoming obsessed with ‘home-schooling’ your children which can lead to increased pressure and battles, it is important to relax about homework.  While you might punctuate the day with one or two learning periods the when screens are turned off, it is better to set small achievable learning goals that the children are largely in charge of. Work closely with te school teacher and avail of what online school supports might be available.

Avoid being in the role of a strict teacher. Remember  young children learn most form you during fun and relaxed activities whether this is baking or cooking, spotting nature during a walk, playing quizzes, sowing seeds in the garden or doing  a craft together. Find something your children enjoy and make this the basis of home learning. Many schools will provide support on these creative learning opportunities.

Help children plan their activities

Help you children create their own routine and to alternate their activities throughout the day For example, in a given day they might alternate between 1) screen time by themselves 2) doing a play activity 3) reading a book 3) watch a TV programme with family 4) Playing in garden 5) playing music 6) doing a craft 7) going for family walk etc.

The key is to strike a balance between screens and other activities as well as time alone and time with the family.

Take the pressure off

Being cooped up in the same house already brings a lot of pressure. Reduce your expectations and don’t expect to be a super parent doing everything. Have a gentle start to day, set one or two goals, let your children watch a bit more TV, and focus on enjoyment and relaxation as much as you can.

See original article published on solutiontalk.ie

How to Achieve Screen Time Sanity During Quarantine

Here is an interesting and very relevant piece from the Psychology Today website which you can access here https://www.psychologytoday.com/ie

Five steps for limits and allowances on pandemic screen time: A “Play Diet”.

Posted May 11, 2020

Two words come to mind when managing your family during the coronavirus quarantine: safety and sanity. Obviously, the safety of our kids and families is the number one priority. Social distancing, sheltering in place, and washing your hands have become the mantras of moms and dads all over the world. While keeping household sanity may be a distant second in our priorities, nonetheless, this supports safety by keeping families more content, communicative, and collaborative.

Pixabay / No Attribution Required
Source: Pixabay / No Attribution Required

Quarantining 24/7 is very difficult. Kids are stuck in their homes, don’t have an opportunity to engage in face-to-face relationships, and are restricted in their physical activities such as participation in team or individual sports. Many families live in urban areas, where COVID-19 is prevalent and home confinement is the norm. More fortunate are those who live in areas where they can venture outdoors more safely and have more breathing space, perhaps seeing friends from a distance and having more opportunities to exercise. Even in these cases, however, family sanity is difficult to achieve when you are living together morning, noon, and night; going to work and school in the same space, and contending with children who complain nonstop about being bored. This can be even more difficult if you have a child with ADHD or learning differences who needs ongoing attention. Family sanity can be helped by engaging in an activity that is quiet, focused, and entertaining—screen time. That’s why I suggest loosening your normal rules around screen time during the quarantine.

But don’t change your parenting style so much that it neglects your family’s health. If you choose to allow more screen time during the quarantine, do it within the context of expecting and modeling a healthy and balanced “Play Diet.” For those of you who are unfamiliar with the LearningWorks for Kids construct of a Play Diet, it is a recipe of essential activities for children’s learning and psychological adjustment that recognizes the importance of a variety of play for child development. A healthy Play Diet consists of a balance of physical, social, creative, unstructured, and digital play and is important for every child and adult. Healthy Play Diets vary based on individual needs, interests, age, and on situations such as whether it is a weekday or during the weekend, while on summer vacation, or over the week after Christmas when parents are encouraged to modify expectations. The COVID-19 quarantine is one of those times for changing the rules for a healthy Play Diet.

The current pandemic has also changed the rules for parenting when it comes to screen time. Allowing more digital play/screen time is recommended for safety and sanity. Kids who are occupied in their homes and allowed to play more with their friends online will be less likely to run off to a friend’s house or pester their parents for things to do. In simple mathematical terms, there is more sustained leisure and housebound time for your kids than ever before. Proactive parenting that accounts for the excess free time can use Play Diets as a model for keeping the health and sanity of your home.

Pixabay / No Attribution Required
Source: Pixabay / No Attribution Required

But how to achieve a healthy Play Diet during the quarantine? First, model healthy living for your kids. Make time to exercise; talk to friends and family; engage in a hobby; take care of yourself psychologically and spiritually; and use screens to work, relax, and communicate with others.

Next, create the expectation that everyone in the family will engage in daily physical, social, creative, unstructured, and digital play activities. Be explicit with your kids. Yes, you will allow them to have more screen time, but it’s not a free for all, you expect them to engage in healthy activities daily. It won’t be easy, you’ll have to devote time, thought, and money, but it will help everyone get through the quarantine healthier and happier.

A healthy play diet is typically defined by spending a lot of face-to-face time with friends and family and engaging in social activities at home, at school, and in the community. It also involves regular physical fitness, for children and teens most often in the form of team sports, going to a gym, or participating in dance or yoga classes. During normal times, creative play often involves taking art or music classes, being involved in theater, playing in a band, or singing in a chorus or choir. Unstructured play is defined by hanging out with others with no particular goals, taking a walk outdoors, or running around the neighborhood. All of these play activities are more difficult during the quarantine, but not impossible with some planning and effort.

I will expand on detailed strategies for achieving a healthy Play Diet during the quarantine in future posts on learningworksforkids.com but here are a few basic steps that will keep screen time in check and get you started:

Pixabay No Attribution Required
Source: Pixabay No Attribution Required

Physical Play: Take a family walk every day, no excuses. This is best done at a regularly scheduled time.

Social Play: Zoom family members or family friends each night before dinner.

Creative Play: Do something new every day. Your kids have more time on their hands, so have them try something new. Try a new recipe, read a book by a new author, take apart a Lego construction and make something different, do a craft project with items found around the house, or learn about something of interest through an Internet search.

Unstructured Play: Take a few minutes each day to relax, stretch, daydream, make a plan for the future, and appreciate nature and the spring season.

Digital Play: This is where your kids will tell you what they want to do. Allow age-appropriate gameplay and think about playing with them.

About the Author

Great low cost craft activities

Here are some great low cost activities to try together from the Childcare Team in Springboard Family Resource Project. These are included in the second booklet in the series “Parenting through Covid 19 – handy hints to keep home life happy” which was produced by staff in Finn Valley Family Resource Centre and Springboard Family Support Project.

Butterfly

Materials/Resources needed     
• Toilet roll holder
• Paper
• Scissors
• Glue /prit stick
• Markers /crayons/colouring pencils
• Pencil/pen
Preparation and instructions
Some children may need an adult to help.
Trace the child’s hand on the paper using the pen/pencil do this twice. Help child cut out their hands that they traced using scissors. Let the child colour in his/her hands that they traced using crayons, colour in toilet roll holder, when the child is finished colouring in help them to stick their hands onto the back of the toilet roll holder, turn around and add or colour on eyes mouth and nose.

Objects and Nature Painting

Materials/resources you will need for this activity.
• Paints
• Paint brushes
• Tubs
• Water
• Paper/card
• Potatoes / leaves / stones/  apples
• Preparations and instructions
Preparation and Instructions
• Children will need to go outside and gather different shaped leaves and pebbles or anything they choose to paint with. This is a fun filled activity and should keep children amused for some time in the home.
• Put all materials on table and fill tubs with water so you can wash the paintbrushes after use. Use different coloured paints if you choose. Cut potatoes or apples in half and paint, see the different designs left on paper.
• Leave and let them dry.
• Remember to encourage children to help tidy up when your painting activity is finished and wash all paintbrushes and then dry so you can reuse them the next time you want to paint.

Milk Carton Birdhouse

Materials/ resources needed:
• Plastic 2 litre milk carton
• Paint or markers
• Scissors
• String
• Sticky tape
• Bird seed or breadcrumbs
• Loose bark or grass
• Stickers if you want to personalise
Preparation & Instructions
• Wash milk carton thoroughly and put upside down to dry out
• Cut out a square underneath the handle, start in the middle and work your way up to make doors ( make sure to have an adult present for this step)
• Press along the door line to fold door flaps out
• Remove lid and tape string to top using sticky tape and now add the lid to secure
in place
• Time to decorate your bird feeders using paints or markers and design, you can even personalise it.
• Leave to dry out.
Add loose bark or grass inside the bird feeder. Now it s time to hang your bird feeder in your garden, add breadcrumbs and watch for birds.
Enjoy.

DIY Salt Dough – Name or Initial Ornaments

Materials /Resources Required:
• 2 cups flour
• 1 cup salt
• 3/4 – 1 cup of water – add water slowly
as you may need less
• Paint
• Paintbrush
• Cookie cutters or plastic knife
• Ribbon or string
• Parchment paper/ cooking tray
Recipe/Instructions
• Mix flour, salt and water in a bowl
(if dough is too dry add more water, if it’s too wet add more flour)
• Roll out dough on a flat surface
• Cut out your name or Initials using cutters or a plastic knife
• Place on a tray using parchment paper 
• Poke a small hole in the corner of letters
• Bake at 250 degrees for approximately 2-3 hours
• Leave to cool
• Paint and decorate and then leave to dry
• Add ribbon and hang your new decoration wherever you like

Our thanks to Mairead Connolly. Childcare Team Leader Springboard
Carole McBrearty. Childcare worker, Springboard and Anita Dolan. Childcare Worker, Springboard for these great ideas.

You can read “Parenting through Covid 19 – handy hints to keep home life happy” here

https://www.cypsc.ie/_fileupload/Documents/Resources/Donegal/FVFRC%20-%20Parenting%20through%20Covid%2019%20Booklet%202.pdf

 

 

Parenting a child with additional needs through Covid 19

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
Contact: info@bluestackfoundation.com

You can read more of the articles about Parenting through Covid19 here

https://www.cypsc.ie/_fileupload/Documents/Resources/Donegal/FVFRC%20-%20Parenting%20through%20Covid%2019%20Booklet%202.pdf

 

How to build a happy baby

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

"Positive infant mental health is synonymous with a child's ability to form secure relationships"
“Positive infant mental health is synonymous with a child’s ability to form secure relationships”
Opinion: infant mental health is an important public health issue, as research shows the quality of the early relationship builds the foundation for virtually every aspect of human development.Babies are hardwired to develop a social connection with their primary caregiver, usually their mother or father. Without this relationship, they would not survive. We learn about who we are through our relationships. It is within the sacred crucible of the most important first relationship, the parent-infant bond, that our sense of self and the world develops. “Infant mental health” refers to the child’s healthy social and emotional development in the first three years of life within the context of this “attachment” relationship with the primary caregiver.

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.

“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”

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

Making the most of family time

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

https://www.cypsc.ie/_fileupload/Documents/Resources/Donegal/FVFRC%20-%20Parenting%20through%20Covid%2019%20Booklet%202.pdf

 

Why ‘good enough’ parenting is good enough during the lockdown

As parents we are so inclined to put ourselves under pressure. Under present circumstances, when we are trying to be all things to our children – parent, teacher, friend, entertainer etc – that can be even more stressful. Here is a very good article from the RTÉ website which may be useful.

Why ‘good enough’ parenting is good enough during the lockdown

"If your children had one wish for you, it would be your acceptance that being a 'good enough' parent to them is just that... enough"
“If your children had one wish for you, it would be your acceptance that being a ‘good enough’ parent to them is just that… enough”
Have you had enough of articles with suggestions on “how best to parent during the coronavirus crisis”? Me too. Although well intentioned and often providing sound guidance, I feel overwhelmed by the amount of information coming in through my inbox over the past weeks. It’s as if I’m drowning in a sea of advice. As if it wasn’t enough to be holding onto worries about our families, health, livelihoods and the state of the world, without our usual supports, over-exposure to advice can reduce our confidence and increase our fear.

For parents who feel a lack of control, our tendency might be to cling onto a sense of control in every aspect of our lives, including how we parent. This may lead onto perfectionist tendencies, where we try to control everything and take on roles beyond parenting. From the home schooling with endless lists of work and the challenges in “parenting from work”, to feeling like you have to tackle “projects” (because social media says so) to managing your own and your children’s big emotions, it hasn’t been easy.

Unfortunately this is counter-productive and it can lead us to feel like we don’t measure up to ourselves or to others’ expectations. Fortunately, there is a remedy. The calm acceptance of ‘good enough’ as opposed to perfection.

From RTÉ Radio 1’s Ryan Tubridy Show, an email from an anonymous parent who says they’re finding things really tough at home during lockdown prompted a flood of warm and encouraging responses from other listeners.

Introduced by British pediatrician and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott in his book Playing and Reality, the ‘good enough’ parent provides support to what he called “the sound instincts of parents”. As I previously wrote, “if your children had one wish for you, it would be your acceptance that being a ‘good enough’ parent to them is just that… enough”. This stemmed from my experience of seeing parents holding high expectations of themselves, often pre-empting their children’s every need, driven by echoes of their own childhood wounds, guilt and comparing themselves with others.

So what can help to take that pressure off yourself just that little bit?

Learn to trust your gut instinct

Each of us have an internal navigation system which guides how we parent. Our intuition has been carefully honed by our lived experience as parents, our natural instinct in attuning to our children’s needs, and the incredible power of our attachment relationship in helping them be human, compassionate and resilient.

Resilience means learning to cope with manageable threats, while having the ability to rebound in the face of difficulties. The single most important factor that nurtures resilience in children is having a stable and committed relationship with a trusted adult, to whom the child can turn to in times of challenge or need. By being emotionally available for your child through these highs and lows, you are nurturing their resilience. You are enough. When in doubt, drop into the present moment, listen to what your gut is telling you and trust yourself to do the next ‘good enough’ thing.

From RTÉ 2fm’s Louise McSharry show, psychotherapist and parenting expert Joanna Fortune on managing kids’ nightmares, tantrums and screaming matches 

Let go of the fallacy of perfection

For many families, living through “lock down” conditions has presented many challenges, including a rise in conflict. The belief that ‘perfect families’ exists promotes feelings of inadequacy, loneliness and blame. Relationship ruptures arise naturally in every family. It’s how we repair these that matter, which provides a valuable opportunity to strengthen our relationships with our children and models for them how healthy relationships work.

When something goes wrong with our kids, rather than blame ourselves or them, try to see the need behind their behaviour, which is them needing you to organise their feelings. Taking your child’s distress seriously and acknowledging their experience as valid for them gives them an experience of being safe as they learn about feelings.

Get to know yourself as parent and prioritise self-care

To be a calm, loving and empathic parent, you need to take good care of yourself. Parental self-care is about recognising our feelings and taking the time to restore balance. If we’re feeling overwhelmed, we’re less able to contain our children’s big emotions. If we nurture our self-care, however, we’re far better able to compassionately respond to them.

From RTÉ Radio 1’s Today With Sean O’Rourke, clinical child psychologist David Coleman on parenting during the pandemic

A few times a day, find ways to rest and allow space to open up to yourself. I know this is harder when children are at home, but using moments to soothe yourself rather than activate fear may really help. What do you find nourishing? Going for a walk? Dancing like no one’s watching? Having special family time? Chatting to a friend? Spirituality? Creativity? Playing music? Volunteering your time safely? Having a good laugh? Keeping up your routines? Whatever it is, find your potion and give yourself the gift of soothing and love.

If there’s anything this virus has taught us, it’s that there’s only one way to get past this. We’ll have to go through it. The same goes for our pain and difficult feelings. There is light at the end of the tunnel. And perhaps this quieter time may be a valuable opportunity to make peace with being the ‘good enough’ parent you already are.

If this feels too difficult for you, please talk to someone you trust or seek professional support. If you or your children feel unsafe in your home, you can access help by contacting Stillhere.ie. I’ve put together a collection of Covid-19 mental health, parenting and child resources and host a COVID-19 Special Broadcast for Parents every Wednesday at 9pm, in association with the A Lust for Life charity.


The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ

Pressing the pause button

 

In this extract from Parenting through Covid-19 – helpful hints to keep home life happy Sally Mooney from the Finn Valley Family Resource Centre talks about ‘ pressing the pause button’ – a technique that many parents find incredibly useful. Parenting through Covid-19 – helpful hints to keep home life happy is produced by the team at Finn Valley FRC and Springboard Family Support Project. You can download it at https://www.cypsc.ie/_fileupload/Documents/Resources/Donegal/FVFRC%20-%20Parenting%20through%20Covid%2019%20Booklet%202.pdf

Pressing the pause button

Pressing the pause button, what do we mean by this term? By pressing the pause button and taking a step back from moments of drama we get the

opportunity to see what’s really going on and then to consider the best way in which to deal with it. This results in a calmer parent which in turn leads to
a calmer child, hence improving family life for everyone.

Parenting takes the art of multi-tasking to a whole new level and sometimes, it can become all about getting things done and getting through the endless to-do-lists. This is especially the case now during unprecedented times of the Covid-19 crisis, when we as parents are trying to be all things to our children by filling in the missing gaps left by the absence of friends and teachers. This means at times we find ourselves reacting to our children with anger, frustration, or simple exhaustion.

By pressing the pause button we are taking a few moments to respond. This might mean taking a few breaths, walking into another room for a few minutes or if emotions are running particularly high, deciding to address the issue at a later time or when everyone has calmed down. By doing this we give ourselves time to acknowledge our own feelings and emotions, taking the time to think about how we are feeling and recognising that reacting in anger or frustration won’t help us or our children. Taking this time allows us to calm down and react with the patience, understanding and love that we as parents and our children need.

The Pause Button Technique is a really simple way to empower all parents no
matter what situation they find themselves in; it allows you to press your imaginary pause button, freeze time and consider the consequences of the actions you are about to take, before making a more informed, better choice.

The Parents Plus Parenting Programme states that: “rather than letting a problem happen over and over again, take time to pause and think about the best way to respond”. www.parentsplus.ie

Pause – Press the pause button
  • Take a step back from how you react.
  • Think calmly. What is the best way to respond?
Tune In – Tune in to what is happening
  • What is going on for your children? How are they feeling?
  • What is going on for you as a parent? How are you feeling?
Plan – Make a plan
  • What is the best way to respond?
  • What has worked well in the past?

For more great tips to keep family life happy have a look at the booklet

https://www.cypsc.ie/_fileupload/Documents/Resources/Donegal/FVFRC%20-%20Parenting%20through%20Covid%2019%20Booklet%202.pdf

 

Supporting sibling relationships at home during Covid-19

Here is another very valuable piece from the Finn Valley/ Springboard Family Support Project booklet “Parenting Through Covid-19 – helpful hints to keep home life happy”. This piece, on sibling relationships is written by Jo Sledge Brennan, a Family Support Worker with Springboard.

Sibling relationships are unique, authentic and invaluable, yet they can be one of the most difficult relationships to navigate as a parent. Often these relationships are filled with rivalry, jealousy and competitiveness from an early age and can be extremely frustrating, exhausting and upsetting for parent’s to handle. However, it’s good to point out that for most of us, although this conflict may be high, more often than not the good, fun days more than balance out.

As parents, it’s important we consider our part to play in encouraging positive
sibling relationships. Our children are after all, mainly in conflict with each other in order to gain more love and affection from you than their sibling/s. This rivalry can be intense but it can also have a lasting effect on children, so it’s important to remind them how much they are loved, equally, every day. Don’t be afraid to show your love, no matter what age they are. The first step to encouraging healthy sibling relationships is setting the ground rules for play for example, what behaviours are acceptable and what behaviours are not; no hitting, no name calling etc. You could get your children involved in this too. Find out what behaviours they are most annoyed by with each other, listen to them and make them ground rules so there is no confusion. This way, you’re anticipating the problems, you’re one step ahead!

It’s also important to avoid making comparisons between your children. All children have their own qualities and attributes; they are all unique. Showing an understanding of this will not only strengthen your relationship with them but it will give them a greater respect for each other and build on their own self-esteem. Children like to be seen as individuals; they are individuals. What they share with their sibling is often the same parent/s, their environment, similar experiences and similar memories but they are all individual.
There will be differences; there could be age gaps, different sexes of children,
different interests and needs but what they have in common is you, their parent.

Teach them to understand their differences and to appreciate them. Encourage them to have a good time together by noticing what activities they enjoy doing together, though this can be tough when there are age and interest gaps. In this instance, try cooking together or art, or some form of exercise that you can all do together at least one or two shared activities a day. A scavenger hunt can be good fun, or play cards, or any game or activity that puts the adults against the kids, get them playing and working together.

When there is conflict, try to step back and let them resolve it, try not to get too involved in petty battles. Moderate levels of conflict are a healthy sign that they each can express their needs or wants. If you need to step in, remind them of the ground rules. If all else fails and you need to end the play, talk to each child and listen. You could then allow them to vent, just a little and find out what went wrong before you set the ground rules for the next play. It can sometimes help to ask each child to describe how they feel and have the other child listen. All of this sounds like hard work and it is, nobody ever said that parenting was easy, but there are so many benefits to developing healthy sibling relationships, children may learn to:
• develop their social skills
• navigate power struggles
• try to compromise
• resolve conflicts
• to be assertive
• be empathetic to others’
• respect rules and values
I’m sure all of us would be very happy parents if our children developed the above qualities and attributes from your child’s first peer group; their sibling.

Short Exercise that Children and Young people can do with their siblings:

  • My favourite memory with you is ……
  • I think you are good at …..
  • Things that I like about you …..
  • Things that you do that annoy/upset me …..
  • Things I like about having a brother and/or sister …..
  • One thing I like to do together …..

More ideas and information on a variety of topics to help families get through this tough time are available in the booklet

https://www.cypsc.ie/_fileupload/Documents/Resources/Donegal/FVFRC%20-%20Parenting%20through%20Covid%2019%20Booklet%202.pdf

Our thanks to Jo Sledge Brennan and the teams at Finn Valley FRC and Springboard Family Support Project for these resources.

Home budgeting through Covid-19

Finn Valley FRC and Springboard Family Support Project have put together another excellent booklet to help families through this tough time “Parenting Through Covid-19 – helpful hints to keep home life happy”. Here we share with you the article on family budgeting by Clare O’Kane Family Support Team Leader with Springboard

For many families, this is a very challenging time financially. Some of us may have lost our jobs while others may have had their hours reduced or their businesses closed. Some parents are now reliant on social welfare for the first time. Budgeting through this crisis is vital to keep spending on track. Whilst isolating at home you might find that you are spending more on food every week, but whilst you are spending more on food, electricity and fuel you could be saving money with less being spent on travel or childcare costs.

The budget plans that we may have been using prior to the Covid – 19 outbreak may now have to be altered. For example nights out, birthday parties and even hair cuts that you budgeted for, are now not happening so money will be saved here. However, children are at home now all the time and eating every meal with us, which will add to pressures at home.

By identifying and then prioritising your essential needs you can start your budgeting plan. Ask yourself the question, what does my family need? Consider if you need support with any of your outstanding debts? Keep a track or when your utility bills are due or when your meter needs to be topped up. MABS is a Money Advice & Budgeting Service and they are there to help you if you need some assistance.

You can contact your local MABS office or call the MABS Helpline on 0761 07
2000; Monday to Friday, from 9:00am to 8:00pm. MABS also have a great online tool and Support Advisors online that can help you with any outstanding debt or to even set up a budget plan for you. Find out more here https://www.mabs.ie/en/how_we_help/debt_and_budgeting_tools/ 

During this crisis there have been additional financial supports made available for anyone who has lost their job due to the Covid – 19 or have had their hours reduced. If you fall into this category then DEASP Income Support Helpline for Covid–19 can be contacted on 1890800024. This helpline provides information on available income supports for people impacted by Covid-19. The information team can advise on the most suitable income supports for your circumstances and help you make an application.

If you and your family require support in terms of food or clothing there are county wide supports in place:
• The national SVDP website  https://www.svp.ie/what-we-do/local-offices/north-west-region.aspx will give you the contact number for your local area.
• The We Care Food Bank in Letterkenny can be contacted on 087 1471325.
• There is also a Covid – 19 Community Response Helpline for County Donegal, they can be contacted on 1800 928992 or emailed on covidsupport@donegalcoco.ie.

Below is an example of a household budget plan. You can also make your own depending on what your income and outgoings are. A good way to start is with these headings.

  • Rent/mortgage
  • Food
  • Electricity
  • Bins
  • Heating

Remember you can download the whole booklet with more tips and ideas  here https://www.cypsc.ie/_fileupload/Documents/Resources/Donegal/FVFRC%20-%20Parenting%20through%20Covid%2019%20Booklet%202.pdf

https://www.cypsc.ie/_fileupload/Documents/Resources/Donegal/FVFRC%20-%20Parenting%20through%20Covid%2019%20Booklet%202.pdf

 

This article Home Budgeting through Covid-19 was contributed by Clare O Kane. Family Support Team Leader, Springboard

How to talk to teens and young adults about social distancing

If you have teenagers and young adults who are struggling with social distancing this article by Psychology Professor Michelle Drouin may be useful. The original can be downloaded from the Psychology Today website here https://www.psychologytoday.com/ie/blog/love-online/202003/how-talk-teens-young-adults-about-social-distancing

How to Talk to Teens & Young Adults About Social Distancing

The key is understanding their unique perspective.

Posted Mar 22, 2020

Today, I heard of a concerning trend: College kids posting Instagram photos of themselves on Spring Break—defying rules related to social isolation and mocking older generations for being too careful. Bikini-clad with drinks in hand, these Gen Y and Gen Zers seemed to be saying, “Stay inside, grandpa, but we’re healthy and ready to party.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic in full effect and sanctions mounting in both the U.S. and globally, two camps seem to be emerging: (1) those who are growing worried and cautious about the chance of contacting or spreading the virus and thus adhering to social distancing, and (2) those who feel the concerns and sanctions are overblown and are still choosing to gather in groups, travel, and live life as if COVID-19 were not an impending threat.

Teens and young adults seem especially likely to be in the latter camp. And from my perspective as a developmental psychologist, this makes sense for a number of reasons.

First, from a basic biological perspective, teens and young adults still do not have command of the full set of executive functions, especially those related to planning and considering future consequences, that older adults have. The prefrontal cortex is not fully developed until the mid- to late-20s, which leaves many teens and young adults prone to impulsivity and unlikely to consider consequences that an older adult would easily contemplate.

Second, from a socioemotional standpoint, many teens and young adults are in the developmental stage of identity formation (Erik Erikson). It is critical for them to have the opportunity discover who they are, set their own boundaries, and establish their own values and beliefs, apart from those of their parents. They are often separating from their families, both geographically and socially, because they are developing their own identities. During this time, they may test rules and boundaries imposed on them by parents and other authority figures not because they want to be contrary, but because they are trying to answer the fundamental questions of “Who am I?” and “What can I be?”

Third, many teens and young adults may feel like they are unique and invincible—this is known as the personal fable. They may believe that no one has ever gone through anything like they are going through, and an illusion of invulnerability may make them believe that the COVID-19 virus could never affect them. Again, this is a common psychological phenomenon, but it may make them appear self-centered and increase the likelihood of impulsive behavior.

So what can you do when your teen or young adult wants to defy government- or parent-mandated sanctions regarding COVID and social isolation?

Anna Shvets/Pexels

(Girl with mask in mountainsSource: Anna Shvets/Pexels)

Most importantly, it’s necessary to have sympathy. In fact, nothing like this has ever happened before in most of our lifetimes. These teens and young adults are missing once-in-a-lifetime events, and there is no way to stop or rewind the clock so that they can have these moments back. Let them talk to you about what they are missing, and instead of dismissing their concerns or comparing them to the death and despair caused by the virus, hear them, understand that these are big moments in their lives, and let them grieve the loss of these opportunities.

Next, talk with them about ways to bridge the gaps between what they want in an ideal world and what they can have in the current climate. Couple your wisdom and knowledge of the ways of the world with their interests and use of technology to try to come up with creative ways to enrich their lives without having to see their friends and attend events in person. Be committed to this partnership in problem-solving, and be flexible about ways to help them feel connected to the events and people they feel that they are missing.

Encourage teens and young adults to think outside of themselves. The more concrete your encouragement, the better. For example, you could model empathy and benevolence by writing letters to residents in nursing homes or assisted living facilities and have your teen or young adult join you. Or have them call their grandparents or loved ones in vulnerable populations so that they can hear the voices of people whose lives might be at risk if they get the virus from someone who is seemingly health and symptom free. If you give them opportunities to help and sympathize with others, it may help them see beyond their own social woes and get a better sense of the bigger picture.

Finally, if you find that your child is exhibiting signs of depression or anxiety, reassure them that they are not alone. If you think they may be in crisis or needing professional help, point them to trusted resources: Mental health providers nationwide are gearing up to provide online mental health treatment (call your general practitioner or local mental health facility if you need a referral). Or if you find they just need someone to talk to (and they are not in crisis), they can also connect for free with volunteers on websites like 7 Cups of Tea and Crisis Text Line. Fortunately, those most in need of these online resources (i.e., teens and young adults with high levels of depression, anxiety, and stress) appear to be most open to using them (Toscos et al., 2018; Toscos et al., 2019).

Most importantly– take care of yourself, too! The resources listed above are not just for your children. Take time to acknowledge your own stress and anxiety, and model good health hygiene by taking care of your own needs, both physical and psychological. “Do as I do, not just as I say,” might be the best way to get everyone on the same page regarding social distancing.

In Ireland if you are concerned about the mental well-being of a teenager or young adult you can contact Jigsaw https://www.jigsaw.ie/

Personal boundaries during Coronavirus

Here is some great advice for young people (but can apply to any of us) from Jigsaw about setting and keeping boundaries for ourselves at a time when we are living much more closely with people than we are used to. The original can be found at https://jigsawonline.ie/young-people/personal-boundaries-coronavirus/?utm_source=CM&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=Updates_7 and you can find lots of useful information and sources of support on the Jigsaw website https://jigsawonline.ie/parents-and-guardians/

We are all facing an uncertain and extraordinary time at the moment, and many of us are out of college or work and may be spending more time with our families or the people we live with.

So it is even more important that at this time we are making sure that we are setting and keeping boundaries for ourselves.

During the next few weeks it is likely that these boundaries will be challenged when we are all spending more time together whilst also trying to manage the uncertainty of the times we are facing. But firstly, what do we actually mean by personal boundaries?

What are personal boundaries?

Personal boundaries are rules or limits that we set for ourselves within our relationships and generally within our lives. They help us to identify our needs, preferences and desires. These guidelines set out how you want to be treated by others and what kind of behaviours and communication you accept from other people.

Types of personal boundaries

Some different types of boundaries include; physical, intellectual – your own thoughts and opinions, emotional – your own feelings to a given situation, sexual, material, time and spiritual.

Boundaries can be healthy or unhealthy. Healthy boundaries are really important in all of these areas so that we are able to take responsibility for our own actions and also to help avoid being in a position where we could be hurt or manipulated in some way.

No one has the right to make you feel uncomfortable because of what you believe in.

How to create and maintain personal boundaries

Here are some tips for creating and maintaining healthy boundaries:

  • Know your limits/values. What is acceptable to you in a situation and what’s not. Identify what’s important to you.  For example if family life is very important, set boundaries around not working late and protect this.
  • Listen to your emotions. Try not to avoid or bury difficult emotions. Allow yourself to feel them and listen to what they are telling you.
  • Be assertive. Clearly affirm your boundaries, this gives others the message that you value your feelings and needs above the thoughts and opinions of others. You can let people know they have crossed your boundaries and say no respectfully. This does not mean that you are unkind, it means that you are being honest with them and maintaining your self-respect.

When you have been clear in voicing your personal boundaries and someone is not respecting this, it is OK to remove yourself from that situation or conversation. Remind yourself in these moments you are not responsible for others people’s feelings or reactions and your needs and feelings matter.  No one has the right to make you feel uncomfortable because of what you believe in.

This exercise gives you a space you let all of those thoughts out freely and safely.

How to do the ‘brain drain’ exercise

The brain drain exercise can help when you’re wanting to set out and define personal boundaries.

To start the exercise

Write down whatever comes into your mind until you have completely filled 2-3 pages, it should only take you about 10 minutes. Try doing this in the morning when you get up. Don’t think about what you are putting on the paper just write exactly what comes in to your mind as it comes, even if you are writing ‘I’m bored’ or ‘I’m hungry’ or ‘this feels silly’

The result

At first your writings will sound a lot like this, but over time you will start to go deeper and identify more important thoughts and feelings.

Generally, when we have more time on our hands and less distractions than usual, our minds can go into over-drive and overthinking and worrying escalates. So all these uncomfortable thoughts are stuck in our heads and we just keep going over them.

This exercise gives you a space you let all of those thoughts out freely and safely. It gives your mind permission to say and think anything without fighting it or trying to bury the thoughts because they feel uncomfortable. So what your doing is acknowledging and accepting them for what they are, just thoughts and your letting them go.

By engaging in this for 10 minutes every morning you are much less likely to be overthinking these same thoughts throughout the day and you will feel a greater sense of calm and of being in the present moment. This will inevitably have a positive impact on your relationships and the people you are spending more time with.

 

Remember you can find more information and support on the Jigsaw website https://www.jigsaw.ie/