The staff of Springboard Family Support Project and Finn Valley FRC CLG have come together to produce the ‘Parenting through COVID19 Booklet’ offering some helpful hints to keep home life happy. The PDF of the booklet can be downloaded here – just click the link below.
With schools closed and lots of uncertainties for parents, it’s more important than ever to use positive parenting and healthy approaches to parenting in the home. The staff of Finn Valley FRC and Springboard Family Support Project, both as practitioners and parents, have put together some articles looking at:
• Establishing routines in the home
• Problem Solving
• Encouraging Learning in the home
• Managing Behaviour and Consequences
• Communicating with Teenagers
• Self Care for Parents
They have also added some helpful links to access reliable information on COVID19.
Parenting Through COVID 19 by the World Health Organisation:
Talking to Children and Young People about COVID 19 from the
Department of Education and Skills:
COVID 19 Information and Advice from the HSE: All you need to know
about COVID19 in Ireland:
Parent Hub Donegal http://parenthubdonegal.ie/
Donegal Youth Service http://www.donegalyouthservice.ie
Jigsaw: Daily Practitioner Updates and Online Clinics for Young People
WELLREAD is an innovative new resource designed to help parents/caregivers support and nurture their child’s development by building up their resilience and help them to learn how to bounce back from the challenges they face today.
As our children are at home over this challenging time the team at WellRead understand that parents will be feeling frustrated and even overwhelmed with what they can do to help their child. They would like to offer access to WellRead to parents.
WellRead is a chat bot activity designed to help parents boost their children’s emotional wellbeing with a combination of storytelling and targeted conversations. The WellRead website contains a specially chosen collection of short stories for you to read to your child. Each story is accompanied with a series of questions that you can ask to spark conversations with your child about a range of wellbeing topics. The stories and questions you will find in WellRead have been selected by teams of experts, which means you can relax and enjoy some quality time with your child, reassured that you’re also caring for their emotional well-being.
WellRead features a carefully selected mix of international short stories, fairy tales and novel chapters. The stories will engage your child with their diverse and exciting plotlines, language and characters. There are both contemporary and classic ones, some of which you might remember from your own childhood. Many of the newer stories explore timely issues such as patchwork families, bullying, climate change and poverty. At the same time, in line with our emotional framework, all of the stories look into universal themes such as compassion, truth-telling, courage and hope.
The team at WellRead believe in helping to create a world where every child is empowered to take care of their emotional health and wellbeing and fulfill their potential. It’s free to join, simply create an account at www.mywellread.com
During this challenging time we know emotional well-being is critical and the WellRead team feel this tool is a life line for parents whilst stuck indoors at the minute.
Helping young children understand social distancing
QUESTION: During this coronavirus crisis, I am struggling with getting my children to understand the need for social distancing. We are all stuck at home together and they can’t understand why they can’t go out more, etc. My four-year-old girl says she misses visiting her Nana (who has COPD – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – and is in self-isolation) and my six-year-old really misses football with his friends – this was his life. I want to explain why all the changes are necessary without scaring them. My six-year-old can be a bit of a worrier and I don’t want to add to this.
ANSWER: The Novel Coronavirus, Covid19 crisis has come upon us really quickly. With schools off and families in self-isolation, our lives have utterly changed and become much more restrictive. It is understandable that children are confused and unsure about what is happening. All they initially might see is losses and new rules that are restricting them.
Getting young children on board
One of the positives in the Covid-19 crisis is how society has galvanised in a collective effort to defeat the virus. Once people understand how important social distancing is to stop the spread and to protect the vulnerable, they collectively agree to serious restrictions on their personal freedoms.
Unimaginable even ten days ago, society has acquiesced to the closing of pubs and restaurants (indeed there was grassroots pressure for this to happen). The key was everyone trusted the messaging and leadership – they knew what had to be done.
Young children are no different than adults in this regard. Once they understand why something needs to done and once you explain the positive reason to help others, you will be surprised at how motivated they might become
Use child-centred language
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 four-year-old can’t visit Nana 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 also many children’s picture books just published online to explain all about the virus that you might be able to read together
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.
Think of the different messages you have received about Covid and how these have made you feel. In Ireland we have been fortunate to have clear, calm and concise messaging from our experts and leaders in recent days (contrast that with some of the international media outlets and leaders).
Once again children are no different than adults. 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 they have to do.
The conversations don’t always have to be serious and a bit of humour and fun can help. You can have fun learning how to wash hands by having a competition to see who does it the best or you can make a game practicing foot taps as a way of greeting and you can even make a drawing or write a story with your children on the heroic campaign to defeat the evil Covid-19!
Focus on alternatives
While there are many new restrictions and rules in your children’s lives, there are also new opportunities and alternatives. As already discussed you can use video calls to help your children stay in touch with Nana. You can also help your son learn to play socially distant football with one or two friends in the park. You can set up the game whereby each player has to stay two metres apart and pass the ball after two touches – I am sure you and your son can think of lots of creative variations.
There may also be new opportunities within the new rules that you have not had the time and space to take up before. Perhaps there is now time to complete that jigsaw, take out those board games or even help your children learn to cook, when there was never this time before.
Dr. John Sharry is CEO Parents Plus Charity
Published in The Irish Times newspaper, 20th March 2020. Read original here.
Here is the winter edition of the Parent Hub Donegal newsletter. As you are probably aware ParentStop closed at the end of November after many years of service to families in Donegal. The coordinator’s role in Parent Hub Donegal is also finishing. This position was funded through Parental Participation Seed Funding through Tusla but this funding has come to an end. It is hoped that there will be a commitment to a new Parenting Support entity in Donegal early in 2020.
As of 10th December if you need to get in touch with Parent Hub Donegal please message the Facebook page or email email@example.com. These accounts will not be regularly monitored so if you need to talk to someone or you need information or advice urgently please contact your GP or local Public Health Nurse.
Click here for the PDF of the newsletter Winter 2019
Dr. Elizabeth McQuaid, Senior Clinical Psychologist, Donegal Psychology Department
Anxiety is a normal part of being human and can occur in adults and children. Some level of anxiety is perfectly normal and can actually help us to try new things or to perform better at activities. Anxiety is considered to be a problem when the level of anxiety is out of proportion to the stressful situation or when the feeling of anxiety continues after a stressful situation is over. It is also considered to be outside of the typical range if it appears for no apparent reason or if it significantly affects a child’s quality of life.
Symptoms of anxiety in children include frequent tummy aches or headaches, excessive shyness, difficulty taking part in activities and wanting to avoid situations. Anxiety may also make it difficult for children to be away from their caregivers and they may be clingy, cry or have tantrums on separation.
Parenting an anxious child can be really tough as caregivers are often unsure what to do or say. There are a few key points to remember when children are anxious:
- Anxiety in children is experienced by them as very real. It is not ‘attention seeking’ or ‘bad behaviour’.
- Anxiety can be even harder for children to deal with because their brains are still developing and they don’t, as yet, have the words or problem solving skills to cope.
- It is important that we don’t dismiss children’s worries or tell them that they’re being silly.
- It’s important that they can talk to those they love about what is bothering them.
- Relaxation, mindfulness & yoga for children have been shown by research to help anxiety. Groups are available locally.
- Boosting confidence by encouraging children to participate in other activities that they can do well can also help. Martial arts, scouting groups, music, art classes and non-team sports may be easier for the anxious child.
- It is important for caregivers to manage their own stress levels. If we are stressed, our children will also be stressed. It is important that children get to spend quality, fun time with the people they love. Stress management groups for adults are run, free of charge, locally by the HSE and are available to all.
- Many great books have been written on helping children cope with anxiety. The names of some of these can be found on the Parent Hub website and many are available in the local library.
Helpful Anxiety books for Children and Teenagers.
Helping Your anxious Child: A Step-by-Step Guide. R. Rappe, A. Wignall & S. Spence.
What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kids Guide to Anxiety. Dawn Heubner.
When My Worries get Too Big: A Relaxation Book for Children. Kari Dunn Baron.
The Whole Brain Child. Daniel Siegel & Tina Bryson.
Parenting from the Inside Out. Daniel Siegel & Tina Bryson.
Raising a Secure Child. K. Hoffman, G. Cooper & B. Powell.
Sitting Like a Frog: Mindfulness for Children. Eline Snell
The Huge Bag of Worries. Virginia Ironside
Morris and the Bundle of Worries. Jill Seeney
Hold On to Your Kids. Gabor Mate & Gordon Neufield.
When Someone Very Special Dies: Children can Learn to Cope with Grief. Marge Heegaard.
Helping your Anxious Teen. Sheila Josephs.
The Anxiety Book for Teens . Lisa Schab.
Helpful Apps on Anxiety for children and Teenagers.
Stop, Breathe and think Kids: Age 5+
Well Beyond Meditation for kids: Age 9-11(Apple Store only)
Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame Street: Age 6+
Smiling Mind: Age 4 +
Headspace: Mindfulness: Age 9+
Mind Yeti: Age 5-12 (Apple Store only)
Mindshift CBT : Age 12 +
Superstretch Yoga: Age 5-11
Do you know a child with Autism or Sensory Processing Difficulties?
- Snowball Alley- Fun for all the family
- Snowman Picture Knockdown
- Santa’s Family Room with personalised Family Christmas Story
- Christmas Tree Decoration making
Foróige launched a new video tonight aimed at explaining the concept of restorative practices to young people and adults.
The project was completed as part of Donegal ETB’s Restorative Practices Project which successfully secured €200,000 of EU PEACE IV funding in 2018. It is supported by the European Union’s Peace IV Programme, managed for the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) by Donegal County Council. This project involves nineteen post-primary schools (ETB and non-ETB) and Youthreach (early school leaver) centres from across the county and Foróige.
Restorative practices provides an ethos for making, maintaining and repairing relationships and for fostering a sense of social responsibility and shared accountability. It understands that when harm is done to people and relationships, it creates obligations and liabilities and focuses on repairing the harm and making things right.
The video was created by young people with the support of a motion graphics designer and Foróige staff. It began with Restorative Practices training for the fifty young people and staff year over the course of a day. The young people expressed an interest in becoming involved in the production of an animated video that would explain Restoratives Practices in a clear and succinct way. The aim was that the video would be used both for those actively engaging in Restorative Practices as well as those who were introducing the concept to young people, youth workers, teachers, trainers in both youth services and education centres and schools for the very first time.
During a Restorative Practice residential, Foróige staff facilitated workshops with the young people to reflect on the training they had received and what they had learned. They worked on their script and met with the motion graphic designer to develop their ideas and capture what they wanted on the final video. Two of the young people did the voice-overs on the video which was a first for them.
Speaking about the project, one of the young people said, “Taking part in the Restorative Practice training and project was a great opportunity; I got to learn skills in Restorative Practice and how to use this in school and home and I also met lots of new friends.”
Foróige Project Leader Susan McLoughlin noted, “The young people achieved so much in the process of making the animated video. Most of them had never even heard of Restorative Practices before. To think that they now have a professionally made video that will explain and promote Restorative Practices as a positive way of dealing with conflict situations is a real credit to all of them. Our thanks to Donegal ETB, Donegal County Council and the Special EU Programmes Body for funding the project through the Peace IV programme.”
The project is funded under priority 1 of the Peace IV programme, promoting peace and reconciliation and under action 4.1 of the local authority peace plan which focuses on the promotion of positive relations at a local and regional level, characterised by respect and where cultural diversity is celebrated and people can live, learn and socialise together, free from prejudice, hate and intolerance. Match-funding has been provided by the Executive Office in Northern Ireland and the Department of Rural and Community Development in Ireland.
Donegal ETB project coordinator, Dr Sandra Buchanan noted, “This is a brilliant video. Restorative practices is not an easy concept to understand and this video presents an understanding that’s clear, that’s easy to grasp and introduces the concept outline in a nutshell. It is such a useful resource for introducing this topic to young people and adults.”
Donegal County Council Peace IV Programme Co-ordinator, Caroline McCleary, congratulating the young people remarked how she was delighted to see this video, “Peace emanates from conflict and as we put these projects together we can see that we’ve moved on from some of that conflict. It gives me great pleasure to see projects like this rolled out that involve young people and I hope that the new skills they have learned will help them as they go through life.”
The restorative practices project seeks to improve positive relationships between and for young people, staff, parents/guardians, volunteers, train participants in accredited and non-accredited approaches to Restorative Practices and to develop an understanding of alternative ways of dealing with conflict.
The video can be viewed here.
Advice that many professionals and parents request from Parents Plus in this Irish Times article with Professor John Sharry
In the past 20 years the use of technology has invaded family life. Whereas previously there was only the TV to contend with, now we have the internet, video games and smart phones all interrupting family life. When I first started clinical work with families, the number one battle for parents was to get their children to come home on time, now parents battle to get their children out of the house into the fresh air (and to leave the screens behind).
While technology has given us incredible ways to communicate with others, it has also interrupted our communication with our nearest and dearest. If you were to visit an average family home these days you might find Mum on social media, Dad checking emails, the daughter reviewing YouTube videos and the son watching live-streamed videos – no one is talking to each another and all the attention is on the virtual world.
A growing reason for couples seeking marriage counselling are related to screens, whether this is an addiction to pornography or social media, online affairs or simply couples spending more time online and less time communicating with each other.
As well as the dangers of cyber-bullying and the addictive nature of the internet, the excessive use of screens are associated with poor health and sleeping habits.
In my clinical practice, I have come across many teenagers who use the internet throughout the night (often not known by their parents). I remember one girl who would wake several times a night to check if there were any further “likes” to one of her posts on social media. This constant checking of social media or being online all the time is driven by a normal teenage desire to fit in but, amplified on social media, it leads to increased anxiety, poorer concentration and interrupted sleep.
In addition, teenagers, especially boys, are accessing pornography at younger and younger ages (some from the age of 10) and there is evidence that this is distorting their normal sexual development with a growing number becoming addicted in early adulthood, wreaking havoc with their ability to form healthy relationships.
Given the highly immersive and engaging nature of the internet and social media, it is hard for real world healthy activities such as sport, home projects or even walking in nature to get a look in. Even doing homework is made more complicated now that a lot of it is completed online, when alluring, distracting online material is just two finger clicks away.
Remember that Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter have no interest in your children’s improved concentration or long-term health; they simply want to lure them back to log in as frequently as possible.
So, how can you respond as a parent to all these challenges?
How can you be proactive and take steps to help your children and teenagers be safe online and to use technology responsibly? Below are some ideas.
Join in and understand your children’s technology
The first step is not to see technology as “all bad”. Take time to get to know your children’s technology and encourage the positive educational and entertainment aspects. Indeed, technology can be a source of connection between you and your children. Joining them to play some of their video games or using shared social media email and texting can be an important way to stay connected with them as they get older.
Adopt a gradual approach
When your children start using technology it is best to adopt a gradual step-by-step approach based on trust and your child’s age. Start conservatively, and slowly give them access.
When children are young, all internet use should be supervised directly by parents and the child should not know passwords.
As they get older, children can be allowed some time unsupervised, but parents should check their history, know passwords and install appropriate safety software, and so on.
Children should gain access to new technology (like a social media account) only once they have discussed safety and learned about the platform together with their parents.
Create technology-free times and zones
Make sure to limit technology in the home and to set aside times and places when only real world activities and conversations are allowed. For example, you might set family rules such as:
– No phones in bedrooms after 7pm (to ensure a good night’s sleep).
– No technology at mealtimes (to allow time for family talking).
– One hour screen time during weekdays (to allow time for homework and sport).
– Agree that notifications are turned off on phones and social media is checked only a few times a day.
– Have a social media free day such as Sunday when you have family events.
Talk through safety with a child before you introduce a new technology. Go through any potential issues together and ask questions, such as:
How can you ensure you are safe online? What would you do if someone spoke negatively about you online? How can you make sure your phone use is not addictive?
As children become older teenagers they will be responsible for their own technology use, but it is important that you continue to talk to them about safety and responsible usage. Discuss the current dangers and challenges (which are constantly changing) and how they can can manage these.
Negotiate with your children
Listen to your child’s wishes about technology and give them choices. For example, the rule might be that they have a set amount of screen time (for example, 30 minutes) each day of the week, but they can choose when this happens. Children may be allowed more time once they show they are responsible, complete their homework and chores. It is perfectly appropriate to communicate to children that technology is a privilege rather than an entitlement dependent on good behaviour and co-operation (and which can be removed if children don’t keep rules).
Take time to change habits
Many parents are in a situation where poor technology habits have become the norm in the home (TV on all the time, eating in front of screens, phones in the bedroom) and they want to change this. In these situations, take time to negotiate these changes with your children and then gradually work towards them. For example, you might start a conversation saying: “I am worried that there is too much phone and tablet use in the house. It is interfering with homework and time with the family. We need to agree a better routine around this. What do you think?”
Do you know a teenager who would be interested in exploring what citizenship means?
- 12 workshops delivered over 12 x 1 ½ hours sessions.
- Joint Activity 4 hours
- Community Event 4 hours
Define what citizenship means to them
Research their community’s needs
Illustrate ways in which to benefit their community
Plan a project to meet an identified need using a planning model
Organise and manage their project
Evaluate the effectiveness of their project
This project is run on a cross community basis by the Belfast Youth Project which is part of the Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre. You can contact Neil Gallagher for more information on 074 9123890.
Great advice from SafeFood about how to help our children eat more healthily
10 steps to reducing children’s treats
On average, about 20% of what children now eat is treat foods. Crisps, biscuits, chocolate and sweets are high in sugar, fat and salt and provide next to nothing in the way of nutrition.
When children fill up on treats, they don’t have room for more nourishing foods. An unhealthy diet like this will affect their health – from dental problems in the short-term, to serious health issues when they are older.
We all know that children should be eating fewer treats, but cutting down is a real challenge. Our children get treats for lots of reasons – to reward or bribe them; to get them to behave; to make them feel better (and to make us feel better too). Maybe it’s a habit, or because they’re there. And sometimes, it’s because we want a treat ourselves.
No matter the reason, with the help of health experts including nutritionists, parenting experts and parents themselves, we’ve got the support and advice you need to make “treats” just that – a treat again.
1. Look around – treats are everywhere
At first, don’t make any changes! Take a day or two to become more aware of when and where you and your children see treats each day.
Does your child come with you to the supermarket or local shop? Do they see treats on TV or on social media? Do your family, friends and neighbours give them treats?
Once you start noticing that treats are everywhere, you might see that your children see and get more of them than you realised. It’s no surprise that treats are now “everyday” foods. We need to help our children understand that treats are just that – “treats” – something special to be enjoyed occasionally.
2. It takes a hero to be the bad guy
Reducing treats can be really challenging. They’re all around us and you’re going to be tempted by them when you’re out and about, and when you’re at home because that’s now the norm.
No parent wants to say no to their child, but in these situations our kids need to be protected against the onslaught of treats.
So be a hero and say no.
Because it takes a hero to be the bad guy.
3. Start with a plan – and stick with it
It all starts with a plan. Health experts recommend that children should only eat treats in small amounts and not every day.
For some families, this might mean only having treats at the weekend. For others who might be eating treats every day, that could be aiming for a treat-free day. Or cutting down at one part of the day – for example, not having treats after school.
However you start your plan, aim to set a goal of reducing treats that is realistic for you. You could also think about why your kids eat more treats than you might want them to. Do they ask for them? Does someone else give them? Are you using treats to reward good behaviours or prevent bad ones? Where are they eating these treats?
Thinking about these might help you to understand some of the triggers. Once you’ve set a goal, you’ll need to work with your family to agree this. Everybody has to be in this together if it’s going to work.
4. Helping you when you need to say “No” to treats
There are going to be lots of different times when you might need help with saying “No” to treats.
Q: “If my child is hungry and asks for a treat, what do I do?”
A: If your child is really hungry, let them have a healthy snack. Here are some options that are quick, easy and tasty.
5. Looking for help? We’ve got your back
When you’re trying to cut down on treats, you’re probably going to need some help. Let’s be honest, parents aren’t the only ones who give children treats.
So speak to your family, friends and neighbours.
You might also need to discuss this with other clubs and groups that your children are be involved with. Maybe treats shouldn’t be a regular feature of activities?
Join our Make A Start Facebook Group where other parents are discussing their successes (and struggles) when it comes to cutting down on treats.
You might pick up some useful tips or get support from other parents if things aren’t going great.
6. Out of sight out of mind – avoid triggers
Since treats are all around us, the next step is to try and change that. The two key places that we can control are when food shopping and in our own homes.
If you are out shopping in the supermarket, try to stay out of the treats aisles. Try to ignore the special offers on treats at the ends of aisles. If you really don’t want them or need them, they’re not a bargain.
Let’s face it – most of us have a “treats press”, so for younger kids, try to make sure it”s out of reach and that they’re not allowed to take things from it freely.
On a positive note, you can leave healthier foods in easy reach, like a fruit bowl on your counter. That way, children are tempted by these when they’re hungry.
7. You can do this!
If you set a realistic goal, then you know you can do this. And keep telling yourself that you can.
Think about those days that went well and how you managed them.
And if you do have a bad day, just park it, move on and remember the good ones.
8. Give real treats, not treat foods
Sometimes, we want to give our children treats and make them feel special. And it’s important that we continue to do that. But we’re relying more and more on treats and need to think about some healthier options. Many kids really just want a bit more of your time and attention.
Alternative treats could be a trip to your favourite place – the park, the woods, a playground, a beach or library. Whatever is near where you live and brings some enjoyment to you all. You could play a game with them, indoors or outside.
And for those little ones at home, even a hug and kiss can sometimes be the thing to boost everyone’s spirits.
9. Keep an eye on how you are doing
Changing how many treats your children have will take time. On average, it takes about two months to change a habit, or start a new one.
It can really help if you take a few minutes each week to think about how you are doing and maybe even write down and keep track of when your children had treats. You might not have time for this, but if you do, there’s a treats diary you can print out and use. If things haven’t gone so well, ask yourself a few questions. Are you getting the help you asked for?
Are there still places or times when treats are a particular challenge? Do you need to review the advice on how to say no? If things have gone well, thing about making another small change and make sure you celebrate your success.
10. Celebrate success
When you achieve your goal, no matter how big or small, take a moment to appreciate what you have achieved.
Reducing the amount of treats your children have is a real challenge and you deserve to feel like a hero. Your efforts are helping to set them up for a healthier life both now and the rest of their lives.