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    Exams – How to support yourself and your child during exams

    REMAIN CALM & SUPPORTIVE
    This may sound easy but we all know it is far from easy!  Try to remember it’s not you, it’s them sitting the exams.  It is perfectly normal for parents to be worried for their child coming up to exams.
    The best way you can support your child is to remain calm.  If you remain calm, you have a much better chance of keeping your home calm, hence a better environment for your child to relax/study/wind down during thier exams.
    Try to remember your experiences with exams may not be at all similar to your child’s experience.  Do not transfer your feelings onto them.
    Leave the room when necessary to calm yourself, walk around the house, breath deeply,
    whatever it takes, just stay CALM & SUPPORTIVE
     start their day with a healthy breakfast to set them up – exams use up a huge amount of energy
    offer to go for a walk with them if you think they may need a break/chat
    make their favourite foods
    have healthy snacks available 
    keep the smaller children out of their way (arrange playdates if necessary)
    let them know you are there if they need you
    leave little treats in their room (quietly supporting them)
    keep regular sleep patterns (even if others are on Summer holidays)  if they are having trouble sleeping, suggest a bath/shower followed by pjs with hot chocolate, relaxing tv programme – help them to come down from the study mode
    leave quotes on their wall – visual quotes really appeal to this age group, you don’t have to say anything, the quote says it for you.
    Different things appeal to different kids, you know your own child – all they really want is to know you are there for them, you trust them, you believe in them.  Communication may become very tense (that is normal), just remember you are the adult here, you are not sitting the exams – stay calm, do not react.  It really does work.
    LOOK AFTER YOURSELF
    Get out for a walk, meet a friend, whatever you do to relax it is very important you do it during exams.  You need to help and support yourself so that you are in a good place to help and support your child.
    KEEP PERSPECTIVE
    The Junior and/or Leaving Cert is not the most defining thing in your child’s life. Your child is not defined by these results – some children are more academic than others.
    Academia is one aspect of your childs life, they also have to be sociable, trustworthy, positive, confident, strong, have strong values, have a good personality, believe in themselves (to name a few) – all of these things are just as important.
    Recognise the strengths and weaknesses of your child.  Don’t put too much pressure on them to achieve what they may not be able to achieve – this will have huge negative consequences.
    Encourage them to do their best – not your best, their cousins best, their neighbours best, DONT COMPARE THEM TO ANYONE ELSE, their best is good enough.  They need to be very clear on that – comparing children to others can be very damaging. Very often children will automatically compare themselves or put pressure on themselves to achieve the same as an older sibling, cousin, friend – let them know everyone has their own qualities. It is very important that they know you understand what their qualities are, that you do not expect more than they are capable of.  I come across so many kids who feel their parents expect more than they can achieve.
    “Why compare yourself with others? No one in the entire world can do a better job of being you than you.”
    “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”
    “Believing in yourself, is an endless destination – believing you have failed, is the end of your journey.”  
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    SELF-DEVELOPMENT & MINDFULNESS WORKSHOP FOR TEENAGERS

    I recently teamed up with Katie Aherne (Yoga/Mindfulness Instructor) and ran a Teenage Workshop in the Kingsley Hotel, Cork. This was a great success – the teens really got involved in both sections of the workshop and the response was very positive. Teenagers need a reality check on what really matters in their world. Social media gives out such mixed ideas, many of them are struggling in their everyday lives. Being a teenager was always difficult and came with many challenges but never so challenging as it is today with the constant presence of social media.

    Some of the areas we covered;
    Self-confidence / Friendship (what is real and what is not real) / peer pressure / exam pressures / values / personal strengths / mindfulness / yoga and many more….
    I wanted to share a few of the comments from the teens at the end of the session to give parents an understanding of how important these types of workshops are and how effective they can be.

    “I am going to spend more time with my family”
    “I want a better relationship with my mum, I am going to try to work on this”
    “I have learnt that my phone has been controlling me and I need to control my phone and not let it effect me so much”
    “I understand now how fake social media is and how I have left it control so many parts of my life”
    “I think I need to look at my friend group as I do not feel comfortable with the people I am with now, I realise how important it is to surround myself with ‘real’ friends”
    “No one ever talks to us about this stuff and we need help-I think every teenager should attend a workshop like this”
    “I never thought about my strengths before, it really made me feel better about myself”
    “I am so tired all the time and this has made me realise I need sleep, I need a break from my phone”
    “I realise my future is up to me – I have to make good choices for myself – and I am going to start now”
    “why doesn’t anyone ever speak to us about these issues in school, there are so many of us struggling – these types of workshops really help us to remember what is important in our lives and that it is up to us to make the right choices for ourselves”
    “I know I have to turn my phone off when studying as it stops my concentrating and doing my best”
    “my phone is so fake and so controlling – I am going to take a break from it more often and do things that help me”
    “the circle of ‘the most important people in my life’ really made me realise I need to spend more time with these people without my phone.”
    “the mindfulness part really helped me to relax and switch off – I don’t know when I did that last”
    “I want to start yoga – I found it really relaxing – I even fell asleep”
    “I think yoga/mindfulness is so important – we need to learn how to switch off and relax “
    “The breathing part really helped me to relax I am going to practice it at home to help me with my anxiety”
    “it really helped to realise other teens are struggling with the same things as I am – it made me feel normal”

    These were just a few of the comments but very positive. Working with teens to help them to ‘be the best they can be’ is a passion of ours. We hope to run many more of these workshop for younger kids, teenagers, exam students and parents.
    If you are interested in any of the above or would like us to run a workshop in your school, locally – or for a group of friends, please let us know and we can organise something to suit your needs.
    Our teens are struggling, maybe a lot or maybe a little, but let us support them so the little problems do not become bigger problems, help them to learn to live in this technological run world in a happier and more positive way. There is no realistic education in schools to support

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    The Importance of Values within the Family Home

    What are ‘Family Values”?

    Your values are your moral and ethical principles. Values are often a guide for the decisions you make and how you choose to live your life. You most likely have a pretty good sense of what your individual values are. It can be a little more complex to try to define your family values, since there are more people to consider. However, with reflection and communication, you can find effective ways to define your family values for all the family.

     

    Consider common values. Make a list of all of the values that are important to you. This is a great way for all of your family members to think about values. Ask each family member who can write to make a list. Your family can then rank the values on each list to help you define which are the most important to all of you.
    ◦ Common values include: honesty, balance, caring, generosity, health, humour, learning, wisdom, leadership, and compassion.
    ◦ Think about your family as you consider values such as cooperation, financial stability, humility, and patience.
    ◦ Try thinking about the values in terms of categories. For example, your categories could include: Personality, Career, Family, Friends, Health. Try looking at the list of values and figuring out which category to put them in. This organisation can lead to clarity about what matters most to you.

    Ask questions. Once you have spent some time thinking about your personal values, it’s time to figure out how to integrate them with the rest of your family. In order to do that, you all need to effectively communicate with each other. Begin the process by asking questions.[3]
    ◦ Ask your family to join you for a discussion about values. Begin by asking open ended questions such as, “What is most important to our family?”
    ◦ You can also try, “What brings you happiness? How does that affect our family?”
    ◦ Other good questions to ask include, “What makes you most proud about our family?” or “What do you look forward to when you come home?”
    ◦ You could also try “What embarrasses you about our family?” and “What does our family provide for you that you don’t get from friends?”
    ◦ Consider having each family member answer these questions individually. Then you can openly and honestly compare answers.
    ◦ Encourage your family members to ask questions, too.

    Be a good listener. During your family discussion, it is important that you all practice good listening skills. To indicate that you are listening, ask follow up questions. For example, if your partner says he values honesty, ask him how that can become more of a focus for the family.
    ◦ You can also use non-verbal cues to indicate that you are listening. Nod your head when someone is speaking, and smile to indicate you appreciate what is being said.
    ◦ Try to limit interruptions. Ask everyone to put away their mobile phones and turn off the tv while you are having this important conversation.

    Solidify your family values. Once you have spent some time discussing your family values and enjoying quality time together, you can begin the process of more clearly defining your family values. Take some time to sit down together and make a list of the values that are most important. You can think of these values as firm guidelines that your family is agreeing to live by.
    ◦ Writing things down can help your family gain mental clarity about shared values.
    ◦ Try writing down items such as “charity society” or “religion/spirituality” or “honest communication with family members”.
    ◦ Try having each family member choose 3-4 values that they feel are most important. Combined, this will give you a manageable number of values to put on your permanent list.
    ◦ For example, you could choose “safety” as one of the primary values for your family. Each family member could then indicate how they will stick to this value. You could pledge to always drive the speed limit. Your daughter could promise to always wear a helmet when riding her bike.

    Make sure your children are involved. Treat defining your family values as a family decision. If your children are a little older, such as teenagers, make sure they feel like they are an important part of the process. Say things such as, “We value your input. How do you feel about including education as one of our primary family values?”
    ◦ You can also encourage your kids to explain their opinions. Try saying, “What do you like about this choice? Why do you think adding humour as a family value is the best option?”
    ◦ If your children are still pretty young, you can find other ways to get them involved. Try having them draw a picture of the things they love about your family.

    Write a mission statement. Once you have reflected on your values and discussed them with your family, you should have a good idea of how to define your family values. One way to solidify them is to write a mission statement. This is a document that indicates what your family values and can also include goals. The mission statement is a formal declaration of the values you share as a family.[7]
    ◦ Write down what the purpose of your family is and a strategy for making sure that you remain focused on that purpose.
    ◦ Try writing an introduction that states why your family is choosing these particular values. You can talk about how your family is committed to these values in order to help promote good life choices. The introduction doesn’t have to be long, just a paragraph will do.
    ◦ List the values. You can organise them by categories such as Health, Happiness, Balance, and Stability. Then, you can indicate your family strategy for sticking to each of these values. We will all make mistakes at times but it is understanding these mistakes and learning from them that matters.

    Once you install strong family values within your family, you are providing a very strong base structure for you all. It really helps kids to understand the importance of Values in life as when things go wrong, as they sometimes will – going back to values very often explains certain behaviours and reactions. I know this sounds like a lot of work but break it down, do what you feel is important to you as a family. Every family is unique and you know your own values. I cannot emphasise how important values are for you as parents and also for your kids, especially when technology plays such a big role in everyones lives.

     

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    Who is going to Support and Educate our Younger Generation on how to live in a world run by Social Media, in a safe and confident way?

     

    I have spent the last 8 years working with over 1500 kids aged between 8 – 18 years of age in the following areas – Positive Self-Esteem, Social Media Awareness, Bullying, Exam Pressures, Friendship Issues, Coping Skills and many more.

    One of the serious concerns I have with social media in our kids lives is the negative effect it has on their self-esteem. Self-esteem will determine every decision our kids make, whether at home, in school or with their peers.  Will they learn to believe in themselves or will they learn to put themselves down?  Will they learn to value themselves?
    Kids are learning to judge themselves by comparing themselves to others online. They are bombarded daily with images of their peers looking ‘perfect’, appearing ‘happy’, and with a busy social life. What they do not see is these same people when they are having a bad day, when they are feeling lonely, upset or angry. Social media allows anyone to show a snippet of their lives, and only the part they want people to see. Anyone trying to live up to these false expectations will find it impossible, and very damaging to their self-esteem. I see far too many 8-12 year olds who find it hard to ‘fit in’, far too many 13-18 year olds that have seriously low self-esteem.  They are constantly comparing themselves to others online and find they always fall short. We need to help them to understand the reality of online worlds, how false they are. This needs to be explained from a very early age before they do damage to their own self-esteem.
    Recent workshops with 17/18 year olds showed me how social media is effecting this age group today. Students are crying out for support on how to find a balance between their real world and their online world. Over 90% said they regret using their phones so much because;
    lack of sleep
    not enough study (phone free)
    poor motivation
    low self-esteem
    not enough time with family and ‘real’ friends
    confusion around sexual relations

    I asked them to write down the names of the top 10 people in their world on the worksheet – we then discussed whether they thought they spent enough time with these people without their phones. This was a real eye opener for them and many admitted they really wanted to see more of these people and turn their phone off, (even if only for 20 minutes). They had not thought about the impact of not spending time with the people who mattered most to them – they just presumed it is the norm to live on their phones.
    Sleep problems are a growing concern with most age groups – whatever age I am working with the majority say they have their phones on in the bedroom at night. (Netflix and Gaming and Chatting) When we spoke about the effects of exhaustion –
    lack of motivation, irritability, sleeping during the day, lack of time spent doing things they enjoyed (sport, art, reading etc) moodiness, relationship issues, communication issues – again they opened their eyes to see that this was something they could very easily control themselves.

    Study – the amount of regret in this particular workshop was very upsetting – regret that they did not turn off their phones while studying, regret that they did not study instead of scrolling though the net at meaningless information. How sad is it that so many of our exam year students will not get the results they are capable of because they did not think about the effects of their phone on their study.

    Relationships – the ongoing pattern is lack of face to face time spent with the important people in their lives. I tried to explain the implications of sitting with a special grandparent, parent, relation or friend with their head in a phone. The special moments missed, the conversations never had, the friendships lost – when I say they are crying out for support in this area I am not saying it lightly.
    Online pornography is a growing industry and one that has to be controlled. The effects of porn on our kids lives is so damaging. In a recent Australian survey with teenagers, it showed the confusion with both male and female teens around sexual relationships. Who is explaining to our youth that porn is an industry that makes a lot of money. It is not the ‘Real World’. How can teens not be confused when they are seeing the use of the body in such disrespectful and disgusting ways. They only need to key in one word to get full on porn on their phones. What education are they receiving to help them to deal with this? Are we explaining the difference between real sexual relations and pornographic sexual relations. We are not. The implications of this is harrowing to say the least. What has happened to romance, first kisses, slow dances – I fully understand the world is changing but surely our kids deserve to understand what a mutual respectful loving relationship means. I am not talking about all kids here but in my working experience this is an area that is coming up more and more with all secondary school kids – 13-18 years of age.

    We have a growing problem with mental health in this Country. The number of young people we are loosing to suicide and mental health issues daily is unacceptable on every level. What are we doing about it? Why do we not have a regular module in every school (starting around 5th class) on self-development – supporting our youth to live in this dangerous online world in a more confident, positive and happier manner. Prevention is key.  I have seen so many kids who presume this is the only way to live because they have grown up with their phone as their 3rd hand. When we stop and talk and educate them – they get it. They want to change, they want to find a balance between their real world and their online world. Do they not deserve to get the support and education they need or will we just continue to presume they understand the implications of this and continue to see this mental health epidemic grow.
    The amount of lonely kids, confused kids, angry kids, depressed kids, anxious kids I see is so sad – was this always the way? No it was not – there is huge change over the past 10 years in our young peoples mindset – it has to be addressed. They are intelligent, creative, loving, caring kids who are battling living in a world they do not understand – how can they understand it if we do not teach them?
    We have to speak up – who cares more about our kids than us – their parents. If we do not speak up for them, who will?

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    Parenting Adolescents – Tips That May Help Your Parenting Experience To Be A More Positive One.

    Having worked with 8yr-18yr for the past 8 years, I have put together a few tips that may help your parenting skills. Learning what is going on in the heads of tweens and teens over the past number of years helps me to stay up to date on the many issues and problems they may face on a daily basis.

    I am also the mum of 4 daughters (12yr – 20 yr), there have been plenty of ups and downs along the way but I have learnt what battles to pick, what is most important to them, what may add fuel to the fire during the many disagreements along the way, and how important it is to keep communication open and to have mutual trust at any cost.
    Adolescents need to establish themselves as their own person – separate to, but yet part of, the family, connected to – but independent from their parents. I have learnt many lessons from my own mistakes – after all this is how we all learn!
    PICK YOUR BATTLES
    Parenting a tween/teen means facing many issues that can either result in all our war or maybe with a little less ‘reaction’ and a little more understanding, the result may be a more peaceful one. Try to remember what was important to you at their age, fitting in, feeling grown up and responsible, thinking you knew it all, believing your parents could not possibly understand what you are going through (they rarely believe we were ever teenagers). Try to pick the battles that really matter – take a breath before you launch in with your words of wisdom. I understand this is not easy but it really does make a huge difference.
    EVENT + REACTION = OUTCOME

    TRUST THEM UNTIL THEY GIVE YOU A REASON NOT TO.

    Without trust the relationship between parent and tween/teen is very tricky. Trust is the bond that keeps the relationship strong. I would suggest you trust your own child (regardless of other peoples opinions) until they give you a reason not to. Talk to them about the importance of trust within your family. When tweens/teens believe you do not trust them, they feel they have nothing to break, when they believe you do trust them they are less likely to break that trust. I see this over and over again – setting boundaries (realistic to their age group) and sticking to them, helps the child to understand their boundaries. You know your child better than anyone else, if they have never given you a reason not to trust them – why would you question their trust.

    COMMUNICATION
    Communication is vital to any relationship – this is the same for the parent-child relationship, try to keep communication open at all costs. When you cannot speak to them, text them, write to them – it does not matter how you communicate with them – once you do communicate. They are at a stage when they want to feel independent, capable of making decisions on their own, testing their boundaries – this is all ‘normal’ behaviour for a tween/teen. Their behaviour and the person they are is not the same thing. Try to separate the behaviour (typical to their age group) and the person. They are going through so many changes, physically, emotionally and psychologically, they are very often on emotional overload. This may cause the irrational
    behaviour, silly decisions – try to separate the two, let a lot of the irrational behaviour go over your head and try to understand what might really be going on;
    did they have a tough day at school
    did they have an argument with a friend
    has their skin broken out (big deal to them)
    are they over tired
    are they stressed over exams
    are they lonely/not fitting in with they peer group
    It is so important that you try to see beyond the behaviour and cut them a bit of slack. Im not saying accept rudeness or lack of respect but the general moodiness, lack of chat – try to ignore.

    EXPLAIN THE IMPORTANCE OF YOUR FAMILY VALUES
    What are your family values? Explain the need for values and what they mean. This is an area that I work on a lot when working with teenagers – it explains a lot of issues they face when it comes to;
    peer pressure
    family issues
    friendship issues
    Think of your relationship within your home like a tree:
    the roots are the things that hold you together;
    communication – love – trust – responsibility – traditions — whatever is important to your family, the branches are the many changes that will occur
    during your parenting years but whatever happens if you stick to your values, the roots will remain strong and in tact and will hold you together.
    Parenting is the most important job anyone will ever have and yet the only job that comes without any training – ask for help and support, it does make a difference.
    “The sign of great parenting is not the child’s behaviour.
    The sign of truly great parenting is the parent’s behaviour.”

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