Fifty Key Messages – Connecting with other parents

Connecting with parents similar to your self can be a great support.

Here are some things you can do to connect with people and groups in your community:

Go to the local park with your child or places where families walk and play – you might meet someone you know. It is always easier to get to know other parents through children. Children will naturally play with other children so, this could be an opportunity to mix with other parents.

Visit your local library – there are often activities of interest to parents and children. Very often, your local library will run activities for children and parents, why not take time out to visit your local library, you might be pleasantly surprised by what you find there.

Parents of children going to primary school:

Get in touch with your child’s school’s parents’ council and think about getting involved. It is a great way to meet other parents. Also, getting involved in your child’s school is a good message to your child that you are interested in them and their education. We know that when parents get more involved in their child’s education, their child will do better in school.

If there is no parents’ council in your child’s school you might consider setting one up yourself with a group of parents. Have a look at the National Parents Council Primary website for information on setting up a School Council.

Fifty Key Messages – Solving Problems Together

Feeling words

Give you child lots of words to name their feelings. Show your child lots of pictures of people with different emotional expressions – see if they can name all the different types of emotions. The ‘big six’ emotions are: Happy, Surprised, Angry, Afraid, Sad and Disgusted. Then you have: amazed, astonished, bored, confused, cross, delighted, distracted, enchanted, envious, fascinated, furious, glad, grumpy, hurt, interested, insulted, jealous, joyful, lonely, nervous, optimistic, pleased, relieved, shocked, surprised, suspicious, trusting, upset, worried etc.

Connect before you re-direct

Try and connect with your child emotionally before you try and ‘solve the problem’ together at a logical level.

Listen to your child

Let your child talk and really listen to them. If an experience has upset your child let them talk about the event. This will help them to make sense of it.

Draw to thaw

Children may prefer to draw a picture of something or someone who is bothering them rather than talk about it. They might also like to write about an incident and you can encourage them to do this if appropriate.

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Fifty Key Messages – Three tips to help your child in times of stress

Things you can do to promote your child’s wellbeing in times of stress:

1. Your own emotions:

Be aware of your own emotional state and share your feelings with your child where appropriate:

“I am feeling sad now because it’s raining and we can’t go for a walk”.

How we cope with stress as parents will have an impact on our child’s wellbeing. How they see us coping with problem solving will affect their ability to deal with both positive and negative life events themselves.

2. Be patient:

Have patience and give children time to share their feelings when they are ready. Sometimes children aren’t ready to ‘tell their story’ when you want them to.

3. Doing is Soothing:

Children are sometimes more likely to share something that is bothering them when they are doing something else like:

  • Playing with their toys
  • When you are out for a walk together
  • When you are driving in the car together

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Fifty Key Messages – Role Modelling

Be a role model for your child

When speaking with neighbours/friends or people in shops/services, role model good manners, like, Please/thank you, etc.

Avoid talking negatively about people in front of your children.

If your child talks to you about someone who caused harm, discuss this with them without assigning blame but discussing the reasons why they did what they did and impact this would have had on the ‘victim’.

Avoid using bad language in front of your child.

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Fifty Key Messages – Name the feeling

How can you help your child understand their emotions and learn to regulate them?

Play the ‘name the feelings’ game. When your child is laughing or happy, it is important to name these feelings. The same applies for sadness, anger, etc.

Positive Feelings
Happy, silly, excited, playful
Neutral Feelings
Calm, interested, comfortable, patient, safe
Negative Feelings
Angry, sad, jealous, frustrated, afraid

Talking about Feelings

  • You can look through books and point out the characters’ emotional expressions on their faces, etc.
  • You can draw happy, sad, crying, angry etc. faces on a paper and use them to discuss emotions.
  • Encourage your child to think about other people’s feelings as well as their own.
  • Talk about emotions and how different things can affect people. For e.g. if watching TV talk about the interactions between people and discuss reasons for why people may be feeling the way they are. Allow your child to discuss their views and allow that they may see things differently from you.

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Fifty Key Messages – Start a Conversation about Sexual Health

How to deal with questions

Q. My nine-year-old daughter asked me out of the blue last night, “How do you get a baby?” I was a little shocked and, as I was thinking what to say, she then told me that her friend told her that “the boy and girl have to have sex”. She then became shy about it and didn’t say any more. I changed the subject and asked her how her friend could think she would know about these things. She told me her friend had heard it from an older sister. I didn’t say any more and the conversation then moved on. Now I feel I didn’t handle the situation well and that maybe I should have talked to her more about sex and what she knew, but I did not feel comfortable. Also I wondered whether she is too young to know the full facts. I don’t know what to do or say next. Should I raise the conversation with her again or let it go?

A. Most parents find talking about sex to their children a delicate subject to get right and, frequently, like yourself, they are caught off guard with a question they are unsure how to answer.

Though you feel that you may not have handled it well, it is good that your daughter came to you to talk about what she heard from her friend. Often children get misinformation from their peers about sex but don’t check this out with reliable sources such as their parents. It is important that children hear the facts from their parents as well as their peers, as parents are best-placed to put the information in the context of values and also to help children to think through issues such as safety.

Even though you did not respond in the moment to your daughter’s question, I think you could still get back to her and raise the subject again.

Pick a good time to chat with her, and refer back to her question by saying: “Remember you asked me the other day about sex and how babies were made – this is an important chat we should have together.”

It is crucial to get your tone right. If you appear embarrassed or nervous, then this will make the conversation harder. Or if you come across as moralistic or make your daughter feel there was something wrong in her raising the subject, this could equally close down communication. If you feel uncomfortable about the conversation, do take time to rehearse it or seek some help from the resources listed below.

As a general rule, when talking to children about sex, it is best first to check what they already know. You could ask your daughter what her friend told her, or what she knows already about how babies are made. Your role at this point is to be a good listener. Then it is useful for you to tell her any information she needs to know.

When talking to children, a key principle is to be honest and truthful but to impart only the information that they need to know according to their age and understanding. A preschool child may ask where babies come from and a simple answer about coming from mummy’s tummy might be enough to satisfy their curiosity, but older children may need more factual and detailed information.

Parents worry a lot about what age to tell children about the facts of sex and are particularly concerned about telling children too much too soon. While, traditionally, children tended to be told this information well into their teens (if at all), generally the consensus is that they should now be told at a younger age and in advance of their teens.

Children are starting puberty earlier and thus experiencing sexual feelings and adolescent crushes at younger ages. As a result, they need support and information at younger ages to cope. In addition, children now are exposed to sexual information at a younger age, whether this is the clear adult themes in soap operas on TV that they watch or within news stories they read or, indeed, in the conversations among their peers.

A lot of this information is inaccurate or out of context, and it is important for parents and other reliable sources to talk to them as well. There is also evidence to show that pre-teen children are less embarrassed and more able to listen to information about sex than teenagers, who might be mortified if parents raise the subject or less likely to listen due to teenage rebellion.

In your own situation, it does sound like your daughter is ready to talk to you and it is important that you respond to her request.

I would suggest that you don’t see this as a single conversation with your daughter but rather as a series of conversations about relationships and sexuality. You want to open the channels of communication, so she feels comfortable coming to talk to you in the future. You want to tell her the facts but also to talk to her about the big issues of love, relationships, safety, being kind, looking out for friends, as well as all the other important things she needs to know to prepare her for relationships in the future.

Fortunately, there are some great resources and books about talking about sex and relationships to children. In particular, the HSE has produced a book and DVD called Busy Bodies targeted at children in fifth and sixth classes and their parents. This can be downloaded from and free copies can be ordered by texting BUSY, followed by your name and address, to 50444.

Also, the Irish Family Planning Association runs an eight-week course called Speak Easy designed to provide parents with the information, skills and confidence needed to talk to their children about relationships and sexuality, see

Finally, your daughter’s school will also be running their Relationship and Sexuality Education programme when she starts fifth class. Parental involvement is encouraged, and this will provide you with another opportunity to ensure she is well-informed and supported about these important issues.

John Sharry, Irish Times, August 2011.

Source: Solution Talk

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Fifty Key Messages: Baby see, Baby do

Playing with your infant

Parents of children aged birth to 3 years:

Put some time aside to play with your child.  Your child will move from ‘exploring objects’ to imitating you, to pretending to be you (Baby See, Baby do – this is role modelling).  This is a great step forward in your child’s development as it indicates that they recognise you as somebody separate from themselves and somebody important that has separate feelings and thoughts about things.


  • Play ‘copy my face’ with young babies. Babies only a few hours old will try to copy some of your actions like sticking out your tongue.
  • For a younger child, hold a mirror in front of their face and watch their reactions.
  • For an older child, give the mirror (preferably a light plastic framed one) and watch how they view themselves.
  • Get close to a younger child – Play ‘clap a clap a handies’ and watch baby’s attempts to copy you.
  • Put some time aside to play with your child. Role model building blocks and other games, but do not ‘correct’ the child if they cannot do exactly like you. It is important to let them learn at their own pace, but role modelling will help them develop.
  • Use correct names for items, such as soother, bottle, etc – this will promote language development.

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Fifty Key Messages – How to teach my child about Stranger Danger

Q. In our area there was a concern that a strange man was approaching and talking to children at a local playground. The report was that he was trying to lure them away from the playground. The police were called and, though there was no one arrested they issued a general warning that we should all be careful in the local area and make sure to warn our children of the dangers from strangers and so on. My question is: how much you should talk to children about “stranger danger”. I have two girls aged six and eight and, generally, they are happy children. I have told them that they should only talk to people they know and that there are bad people out there. My older girl is a little bit of the anxious type and she tends to worry about things. She somehow picked up on the news about the playground and is now worried about going out. How much should I talk to her about things? I don’t want to scare her but I do want her to be safe.

A. Probably the greatest fear for any parent is that our children will come to some harm and we will not be able to protect them. The possibility of child abduction or harm from strangers is probably a worst nightmare for many parents. When such cases happen they are particularly tragic and draw a lot of media attention and sympathy from families. However, we should assess these risks realistically and put these fears in context. Though incidents of child abduction or harm from strangers receive a lot of media attention, they are remarkably rare events, particularly when compared with other dangers. For example, in the last 20 years in Ireland and the UK, there has only been a handful of child abductions, yet in the same time many thousands of children have been killed or seriously injured in road traffic incidents, either as pedestrians or passengers. In simple terms, this means that children are thousands of times more likely to be harmed on the road than to be abducted and harmed by a stranger.

Of course, it makes sense to warn children of risks and to take practical steps to keep them safe, but we must be sensible and address the main risks that they are really facing.

In your question you raise the important issue of not scaring children when you warn them of dangers. This is an important issue as “scare tactics” are not as effective as positive safety messages and can make sensitive children who are prone to being nervous scared of doing everyday things. While you do want to let children know of dangers, you need to counterbalance this with a more positive message of keeping safe. For example, rather than telling children that there are “bad people” out there who can harm you, it is better to emphasise a safety message such as they should never go anywhere or take anything from a stranger, or to remind them that “mummy and daddy will only send someone they know to collect you” or that they should never go anywhere different without asking mummy or daddy first.

In addition, simple vigilance as a parent will make the most difference in ensuring young children’s safety. Knowing where they are at all times, making sure they are with trusted adults and children, making sure to collect them at agreed times, having rules about being in at a certain time and so on, are all parenting habits that will keep young children safe.

While most children have a natural shyness from strangers, some children are more impulsive and can have little natural fear of danger, especially when they are younger. As a result, these children can be more likely to “wander off” or “go off with anyone” and could therefore be at more risk. As a result these children need much more parental supervision, as well as frequent warnings of danger and constant reminders of keeping safe. Luckily, many of these impulsive traits can fade as they get older and they can take on parents’ warnings.

On the other hand, it is important to adopt a different approach with a child who is more naturally nervous or anxious, like your older daughter. Spending too much time reminding of them of danger may overwhelm them with anxiety and may be unnecessary as their natural fears would mean they are going to stay away from strangers anyway. In this situation, it may be more effective to talk through the issues in a more balanced way with your daughter. First, listen carefully to what she knows already about what happened and what her fears are. If she says she is nervous about going out, remind her of all the safety strategies she is taking such as staying with friends, coming in on time, as well as all the steps she could take if she felt in danger such as walking away, contacting you, going to someone trustworthy such as a teacher and so on. Finally, a core part of the school curriculum is teaching children about road and personal safety. Check in with your children’s school about the issue and when they are teaching the subject to your children – this is a good time for you to talk through the issue at home as well. In particular, the Stay Safe programme is taught throughout schools in Ireland and this teaches children in an age-appropriate way about protecting themselves from bullying child abuse and victimisation – the key message being “saying no and telling someone”. The Stay Safe website at describes the programme and there is an excellent free guide for parents that describes in very practical terms how you can keep your own children safe.

John Sharry, Irish Times Newspaper, June 26th 2012.

Source: Solution Talk

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Fifty Key Messages – Tips for your child on the internet

(From Tusla’s parenting24seven website)

You can help your child get the benefits of using the internet while avoiding some of the risks. Here are some guidelines for keeping your child safe on the internet:

Be informed and ‘net-savvy’

The best safeguard against online dangers is being informed and familiar with the internet. Often children know more about new technology than adults so it’s important you know your way around the internet and then you can help children protect themselves from various internet dangers.


Keep the computer in a busy part of the house, where the screen can always be seen. Let the children know that their activities on the computer will be supervised.

Helping Children Use Computers

Use the Internet with your child. Let them lead but stay with them until you are sure they using it appropriately. You can also check your Internet browser history to make sure they have been accessing suitable sites.

Keep an open dialogue

Keep the communication lines open and cultivate an interest in children’s online activities—their favourite Web sites, online games and interests, and discuss what they are doing. Talk to your children about the benefits and dangers of the Internet and don’t be afraid to ask who they are talking to online and what they are talking about. Tell your child always to let you know if an online ‘friend’ they don’t know in real life wants to meet them.

Agree on a game plan / rules of use

Discuss computer guidelines and rules for using the internet with the children. Post a print out of these rules near the computer as a reminder.

Possible issues to include in these guidelines are:
  • Duration of use – time allowed on the computer
  • Sites allowed to access
  • Always tell an adult if they have received scary, inappropriate or threatening messages.
  • Never share personal information on the Internet such as your name, address, telephone number, school name etc without your parents/carer’s permission. Never send pictures of your family, friends or yourself to anyone online without permission either.
  • Be aware of the potential dangers online – adults pretending to be children; business companies wanting mobile information to take money off your phone; dangerous people; spam emails that can spread a virus in your computer and access personal and banking information.
  • Do not open emails from people you don’t know.
  • Never agree to meet people that you have met online and inform parents/ guardians if people ask to meet you in person.

InternetSafety is one website that has an example of a Family Game Plan that you can use.

Protect your computer

Take advantage of the software that exists to help parents manage their children’s computer experience. In only a few minutes, parental control software such as Magic Desktop or Safe Eyes can block inappropriate websites, restrict the amount of time that your kids use the Internet, and monitor their Instant Messenger chats to protect against predators.

Mobile phones

Mobile phones can also access the Internet these days and the above rules/gameplan need to be applied if your child has access to the internet through their phone. If your child is sent inappropriate material, pictures or texts on their phone they need to let a parent/ supervising adult know. Again it is vital that the lines of communication are kept open so that you know what messages your child is sending and receiving.


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Fifty Key Messages – Is your child affected by bullying?

(From Tusla’s parenting24seven website – link below)

Bullying is the repeated abuse of a child by one or several other children or adults. Incidences of bullying need to be taken very seriously. Your child will need lots of support if they are being bullied or if they have been accused of bullying themselves.

1. Look out for signs that your child is being affected by bullying, for example:

  • Being withdrawn
  • Not sleeping
  • Not eating
  • Not wanting to play with their friends
  • Being more ‘clingy’ than usual
  • Overly anxious

2. Tell your child you will take action in relation to the bullying.

3. If the bullying is happening at school, talk to the teacher and ask to see the policies and protocols that apply to bullying.

4. Ensure that there is a plan put in place to manage the bullying situation. Keep in touch regularly with the school and keep your child informed.

See also:

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Fifty Key Messages – Top six ways to be a positive parent


CRISPS is an activity from the Lifestart Foundation Spirals Programme, see

C. Be Consistent and avoid idle threats

Follow through on what you say and don’t change the ‘rules’ from day to day. Make sure all the people who are involved in caring for your child (partners, childminders, grandparents etc.) agree on what’s allowed. Apply the 80/20 rule. At least try and be consistent 80% of the time!

R. Reward desirable behaviour

Reward good behaviour rather than only punishing undesirable behaviour. Positive parenting should be more about learning and rewarding good behaviour, than punishing poor behaviour.

Sample Rewards :

  • Hugs, playing favourite game, story, gold star
  • AVOID – something that has been bought, something to eat

Remember children need attention – they will be more likely to repeat whatever they get the most attention doing! Attention when they have done something good is a lot more effective than giving them attention when they have done something not so good.

I. Be genuinely interested in what your child is saying, doing, thinking and feeling

S. Provide Structure

Structure your day: 
Dressing time, mealtime, bedtime. Younger children love routine, so try and provide as much structure in their day as possible.

Structure your home:
“Places & Spaces”: Provide accessible places for things that your child needs like their books, games and toys. It’s great if you have room to let your child have some special space – for example, an area of the garden when they are younger or a corner of a room or ‘den’ when they are older.

Structure activities: 
Plan, Explain, Do and Review. Involve your child, where possible, in your plans for the day giving explanations if necessary. When the activities are finished it’s good to share the experience, talking about some of the funny things that have happened.

P. Be Positive

Do say: “Walk to the table”
Don’t say: “Stop Running”

S. Be Specific

Do say: “You can play with your cars on the floor”
Don’t say: “Stop messing”

Other things you can do to be a positive parent:

Look out for the positive things that your child does around the home and comment on them. “Well done Kyle for putting those toys back in the crate”.
See Barnardos Positive Parenting Booklet:

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