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    I recently asked my daughter (Leaving Cert student) to show me her Irish prose/short stories – to say I was horrified was an understatement. The depressing tone was just insane. She has been very frustrated this past year telling me she is tired of learning off ‘stuff’ just to regurgitate it for an exam. This is not just in Irish.

    The world has changed so much over the past 10 years yet our curriculum has not. The recent changes made to the English exam this year are another example of no one caring! My Junior Cert daughter (yes 2 exam students in our house this year) came out of her pre-english exam really not understanding what it was all about. No one could finish the exam as it was not timed out correctly and the questions did not help our kids to open their imaginations and think for themselves.
    My 6th class daughter spends hours each week ‘learning off’ Irish essays (sometimes understanding what she is learning, sometimes not) and the pressure to regurgitate these essays on Fridays is ridiculous. What happened to learning vocabulary and putting together an essay using their minds.
    LEARN OFF AND REGURGITATE is the message I am seeing.
    I see many kids aged between 8-18 years of age, male and female and the common thread for many of them is that they are creative. This creativity can have its setbacks as our curriculum is not open to much creativity. Academia is the ‘in phrase’.

    I ask you…….
    What good is academia to the student who cannot communicate with others?
    What good is academia to the student who cannot speak up for himself?
    What good is academia to the student who is inherently unhappy in that world?
    What good is academia to the student who wonders why she is not fitting in as there is no balance between academia and creativity?

    We have to fight for change. Our kids are growing up with a constant influence in the form of technology.
    Recent workshops I held with a group of 6th year students (mixed school) showed me the need for a balance. Kids are crying out to be supported on how to live in this world happily, confidently and safely.
    Over 90% of these students said their biggest regret over the past 5 years was using their phone too much.
    It effected their studies, their relationships, their sports, their mindset and so much more, and not in a positive way. There are many positives to technology but unfortunately there are also many negatives.

    I am fully aware that schools find it very hard to fit anything else into the curriculum as it is. The good teachers are amazing and need to be reminded of the impact they have on each and every student they teach.
    School is the only place where we can reach all kids – of all backgrounds – with all types of parenting. To ensure our younger generation get the support they need we HAVE to seek change in the curriculum so it does include ‘self-development’, ‘communication skills’, ‘self-esteem building’ and so much more – if only to counteract what they are believing and seeing daily on social media.

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    Is your child/teenager addicted to their phone? Does their phone rule or do they take control of their phone?

    I recently ran a workshop on Self-Development with a group of 6th year students in Co. Laois. I would like to share some of my findings which are very relevant to any parent with kids of any age. This was a mixed group – males and females aged 17/18 years of age.

    Question asked;
    Do you think your phone/gamine effects your study?
    Yes because once you start using it you never get off it and waste hours
    -Yes sometimes I loose track of time and I am then too tired or its too late to study
    -Yes it is distracting when your friends message you, you feel you have to reply straight away
    -Yes playing too much ultimate geam
    -Yes because you are constantly checking it which effects my concentration

    Up to 95% said their phones effected their study. We spoke at length about how they could change this and what would happen if they did/did not make some changes now. (4 months before Leaving Cert Examination)

    They really were very open to taking on change. They admitted they never really thought about the effects their phone was having on their lives – study, family, past-times, but they will now.

    Question asked;
    Do you think this workshop might encourage you to make any positive changes in your life?
    yes, to turn off my phone when I am studying
    -yes, to take my phone out of my bedroom at night
    -yes, to find a balance between my real life and my virtual life
    -yes, I feel motivated to study
    -yes, not to rely on my phone so much
    -yes, to set goals for myself and follow them through
    -yes, to try harder at training and switch off my phone

    My point is, in all the workshops I run, the students are so open to change. I really believe they do not think about the negative effects of their phones, as they have grown up believing this is the only way to live (phone constantly in their hands). They need to come to this realisation themselves, when they decide to turn their phones off themselves because they understand the negative effects of it, they have a good chance of sticking to it.  When they are ‘told’ to turn their phone off for study, this is when the battles begin.  We spoke about the effect of phones on family life, past-times, fitness, friendships, sleep, values and strengths – our kids need life skills, they need to learn how to control their phones, take control of their lives. We, their parents, can help them to do this from a very early age. We have to set boundaries for them and stick to them. Will there be arguments? yes. Will there be tantrums? yes. But this is part of our parenting job now. We have to support and help our kids to have a balance in their lives, to understand the world offline and to try to take part in it as much as possible.
    I would love to see Self-development modules become part of our curriculum from a very early age as our kids are growing up in a very fast paced, changing technological run world and they do need help and support to live in it in a more positive, healthy way.

    Please contact me should you have any questions relating to the above. Eileen

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    Why would my teenager need a mentor?

    Does your teenager – 

    Lack confidence?

    Lack positivity?

    Lack interest in life?

    Feel overwhelmed with pressures of exams?

    Feel confused re friendship issues?

    Have a low self-esteem?

    Lack motivation?

    Have trouble controlling emotions?

    Have trouble dealing with Peer Pressure?

    If you answered YES to any of the above, you may want to find out more about Teenage Mentoring.  Do give me a call or send me an email to get more details.

    “Teenage mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen and a push in the right direction.”


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    The Importance Of Real Friends In Our Kids Life

    Friendships are an important part of childhood. For many this happens naturally and many kids enjoy positive friendships throughout their childhood and adolescence.
    Unfortunately, for many, this does not happen quite so easily. I come across so many kids/adolescents who are confused and upset regarding friendships. Maybe it is the effects of social media, American TV and/or peers but there are so many friendships based on the wrong things.

    What is a friend?
    A friend is a person who is willing to take me the way I am, someone I can trust and rely on.”

    The word friend is misused if it is identified with a person who contributes to our delinquency, misery, and heartaches. The word friend is misused if it is a person we do not know but attach ourselves to online.
    And this is where the problem can lie.
    The true meaning of friendship has become confusing for many. This is something we really need to discuss more with our children. Help them to be very clear about what a friend really means. Explain to them it takes time to build friendships, they may make friends with many people over their schooling years but they will probably end up with 3/4 very good ‘real’ friends if they are lucky.
    Show them the meaning of ‘friendship’ by letting them see how you treat your own friends, what you expect from your own friends and what you are willing to do for them.

    Online chats pose a huge problem for kids today, pictures being posted without permission, comments being posted, people talking about each other online in a negative and hurtful way. Everyone needs to understand that this is not acceptable.
    I see far too many kids and teens who are seriously hurting because of many of these issues.
    Watch out for tell tale signs;
    *they may stay in their room for longer periods of time
    *they may become very distracted and angry
    *they may stop going out socially
    *they may stop attending sporting events/training
    I realise many of these actions can be put down to growing up but you know your child – if you notice a change in behaviour, follow up on it.
    Where problems may arise –
    Kids on the outskirts of the popular group – try to explain to them just because they are the popular group does not automatically mean they would make good friends. A lot of people following the ‘popular group’ do not end up with any ‘real friends’.
    Kids who are not sporty but may be in a sporty schools – this can be very hard, especially for the boys as the peer group tends to be tiered depending on sporting ability. There is a ridiculously large amount of slagging given to many kids because they are not good at sport. In the last 2/3 years I have seen a lot more boys than ever before and in my opinion some of the boys are becoming a lot more bitchy, nasty and mean and a lot more conscious of their appearance. Help your child to know the importance of believing in himself. Let him/her know you believe in them, ‘their’
    best is always good enough for you.
    Kids who are spoilt and used to getting their own way can find it hard to make friends. Help your kids to understand the meaning of playing, taking turns, sharing, kindness. They need the tools to feel confident around other kids and communicate in a positive way with them. Spoilt kids will very often have a much harder time making ‘real friends’. They may have friends who follow them around because they have money, big house, freedom etc but these friendships will not usually last.
    Kids need playdates to bond with peers. If you are a parent working full-time try to plan playdates for the weekend. During schools hours kids are busy in the classroom, there is not a lot of time for bonding. Don’t underestimate the importance of playdates – this also gives you a chance to see who they are mixing with, how they behave around other peers, and how they are treated by their peers.

    “The only way to have a friend, is to be one”. – Ralph Emmerson

    If your child is having a hard time making friends
    LISTEN – give them a chance to talk so you can understand better what may be at the heart of his/her struggle making and/or keeping friends. Some kids worry about getting teased and making mistakes others feel left out and rejected by peers.
    OBSERVE – Look for behaviours in your child that may be a turn off to other children. For example, does your child avoid eye contact with others? Does your child speak so quietly others can’t hear? Has your child problems sharing or taking turns?
    These are examples of missing social skills – all kids need social skills to make to make friends.
    SET FRIENDSHIP GOALS – Depending on how socially anxious your child may be, you may need to start with a very small goal.
    *Asking a friend over for a playdate
    *Asking to borrow something
    *Asking to join in
    *Sharing a toy with another classmate
    *Saying ‘Hi’ to a classmate
    *Set up regular playdates
    *Encourage extra-curricular activities
    *Have regular family games nights (teach them to win and loose gracefully)
    *Give your child ‘icebreakers’ – pack some snacks or fun toys that they can share with other classmates.
    *Speak to the teacher – do not let your child know you are speaking to the teacher this will further compound his belief that there is something wrong with him. But if you do speak to the teacher ask her to be discreet and try to sit your child with someone she feels they may bond with.

    Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any queries regarding the above.

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    One of the toughest things about parenting is that the results are not always obvious. If we rely on the immediate behaviour of our kids to measure how we are doing as parents, there will be days we feel we have done the best job as a parent and days we do not understand what is happening in our chaotic world – this is the norm.

    The messages we learn as children are powerful and can determine the way we look at things and deal with many different issues throughout our lives. But we must remember, if we did not receive positive and healthy message as a child, this does NOT mean we cannot give positive and healthy messages to our kids. Too many parents believe they cannot be good parents because of their own childhood and the parenting they received – this is not the case.

    There are two ways our own history can influence us as parents;
    1. We can repeat what we have experienced.
    2. We can push against what we have been exposed to and do things in a completely different way.

    Here are some of the negative messages that can become embedded during childhood and new ways to think about them.

    Old Message
    “I don’t know what a good parent looks like. I’m ruining my kids.”
    New Message
    Knowing what a good parent ‘is not’ is as powerful as knowing what a good parent is. If you take the negative from your own parenting and make sure you do not repeat this, you are one step ahead.

    Old Message
    “You have to be good to be loved.”
    New Message
    Nobody is always good. But you are always good enough. Try not to compare your kids to other siblings, cousins etc, let them know they are great just the way they are. We all make mistakes, loose our temper, make rash decisions – this does not make us unlovable, it makes us human.

    Old Message
    “Arguing leads to trouble. It’s easier to agree.
    New Message
    Disagreements are normal and healthy in every family. Setting boundaries is essential in parenting, this will usually lead to arguments, but you have to stand strong. It is always easier to say ‘yes’, that does not mean it is always right.

    Old Message
    “Kids should be seen and not heard.”
    We all have a voice and its an important one, everyone deserves to be heard. We need to teach our kids how to be able to interact with other adults and peers, they need to be seen and heard to achieve this. This does not mean we have no privacy, there is a time and a place for everything. They need to know we will ‘listen’ to them when they have something to tell us – try to remember what was important to you when you were their age. If they come to you and you do not listen or show any interest in what they are saying, it may be the last time they come to you. Communication is vital in all stages of parenting.

    Old Message
    “Kids should do as they are told.”
    New Message
    Kids need to be able to say ‘no’ – this is one of the most important words on the planet. It is not the most pleasant when fired at us directly, but it is a word that we want them to know and to feel confident and strong about. Whenever you hear them say ‘no’, which very often will be at the most inconvenient times, know that your little being is experimenting with setting and protecting his or her own boundaries. It will be an experiment that will take time to master – and that’s ok.

    Old Message
    ‘What I want doesn’t matter.’
    The Truth
    ‘You matter, your needs matter.’
    One of the most damaging lessons that unhealthy families teach is that the needs of the child aren’t important. They will have various ways of doing this, including criticism, judgement, put-downs and neglect. The depression of needs will, literally, lead to depression and a malnourished self. We all have needs and we all need to be in an environment that is supportive of those needs. You matter and what is important to you matters. It is difficult to thrive when the things that are important to you are being crushed.

    Old Message
    Kids need to control themselves.
    The Truth
    Children have to learn how to understand their emotions and learn how to deal with them in a healthy manner. Anger, sadness, jealousy, spite – they are all important. If kids learn from an early age the importance of being able to express their emotions and deal with them in a healthy way – they will then be able to deal with the more serious emotions they may feel as they get older. In the society they are growing up in, this is of the upmost importance.

    This article could go on and on and on. It is such an important message to parents to realise they can parent any way they want to, regardless of the way they were parented themselves. Parenting is the single most important job you will ever have, yet the only job that comes without training. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice – you are not supposed to know all of the answers.
    Feel free to email me with any queries relating to the above or any other parenting issues.

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    COMMUNICATION – -PART 2 (11 yrs – 18 yrs)



    11 years – 18 years

    Teenagers are naturally anxious or insecure about where they fit in the world. Part of their own development is getting an understanding of what relationships they want or need in their lives. What really matters to them is who they matter to and who values them. They are very good at detecting who is genuine in wanting to connect and communicate with them, and who has other motives.

    Tweens and teens are trying to become independent of you, their parents.   This is part of their psychological development at this stage – there are certain things parents need to know and much more importantly there are certain things parents do not need to know.  Give them their privacy.

    We need to give our kids trust. They need to believe we trust them – without trust we have nothing. I would always suggest ‘trust them until they give you a reason not to’. If they believe you trust them, they are unlikely to break that trust easily – If they believe you do not trust them, they may feel like they have nothing to break.

    Try not to make decisions about your teenager to please others – family, neighbours, friend’s parents. You know your own child, listen to yourself.

    The most effective way to communicate with teenagers is to show an interest in what they are doing. Let them know you are always there for them. Let them know they can come to you for help and advice, no matter what.
    Have a time in the day that you both know ye can talk to each other – in the car, at bedtime, dinnertime, whatever works for your family.

    If your teenager comes to you and you are openly shocked by what they have told you and react in a negative way, they may not come to you again. If you are shocked, try to take a breath, suggest you talk about it later on – give yourself time to take in what they said and then to act in a reasonable understanding manner, try to remember how you felt when you were a teen. If you react dramatically and negatively and are not supportive/understanding, it may be the last time they come to you with serious matters.  This does not mean you do not address the situation, it means you address the situation calmly and rationally.

    Do not break your trust with them – if they ask you not to say anything to anyone else, keep your word. If your teen hears you on the phone later to family or friends telling them about your conversation, this may also  stop your teen coming to you again.

    If communication has broken down, for whatever reason, do everything in your power to build it up again. Write to them, text them – just be sure to communicate with them. Do not harass them, do not badger them, this may push them away. Take it slowly, one step at a time.

    You know your own child better than anyone else.  Trust your gut.  Do not be afraid to ask for advice from someone you trust or someone in the parenting field.

    Feel free to email me should you have any concerns in this area.


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    Mid-Term Break – try not to make it a stressful time!

    Mid-Term break – ‘break’ is quite a funny word to use. Most houses can find mid-term hard; as parents may be working, weather can be terrible, kids can get bored easily and overall it can be very costly. Sometimes the kids go to daily camps, sometimes playdates can be planned and sometimes kids just remain under mothers feet at home all day.
    I remember the days when my 4 kids were under 8 years of age, dreading mid-term break – dreading the constant planning of playdates and trying to keep them all entertained. Now as my kids are 11- 18years – one in College, one working part-time, one happy to remain in bed and one still looking for entertainment, I look back on the days we could all watch a movie together, plan a day out together, plan a couch day together and I am as surprised as anyone else to admit I miss those days. My kids now seem to go in 4 different directions most days and I cherish the odd days that we find ourselves in the same space!!
    My advice is to try to make the most of these times, as they are all under your roof, as they do go by faster than you can imagine.
    Take out that board game, even though there may be 1000 other things you could be doing, start the baking, even though you dread the mess, plan that outing/walk even though it may take a lot of encouragement – don’t let these days slip by ……. these are the memories your kids will remember in years to come. I guarantee you these are the days they will remember when they are parenting themselves. Teach your kids that spending time together is very important, having fun together is very important, talking to each other is very important. These lessons will go with them through life. It is great for your kids to see you laugh out loud, get competitive (not ott) when playing board games with them, joking with each other – all too often they remember us shouting at them, looking at them as though they really are in our way, or just simply ignoring there plea for attention.
    Parenting is the hardest job we will ever have and although is can be the most frustrating, upsetting and confusing time it can also be the most rewarding.

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