Life

Parenting NI encourages mums and dads to develop children's star potential

With growing concerns about childhood mental health in Northern Ireland, a leading parenting charity has launched its annual Parents' Week campaign, which this year focuses on children's emotional wellbeing and building resilience. Jenny Lee finds out how parents can help their children bounce back when life knocks them down

Parents play an important role in promoting and supporting the development of resilience in their children

NORTHERN Ireland has an overall higher prevalence of mental ill health than the rest of the UK. This is a significant concern for parents, as if children and young people are experiencing poor mental health it makes it difficult for them to develop resilience which enables them to cope with the challenges life presents.

Children with low levels of resilience have different ways of responding to and recovering from stressful times. They might become emotional, they might withdraw, or they might become defiant, angry or resentful.

Parenting NI has received 64 calls from concerned parents about mental health within their family in the past month alone. The local charity's annual Parents' Week, which runs until October 27, aims to highlight the importance of resilience to children's emotional wellbeing, through the Every Child is a Star campaign.

Resilience is being able to bounce back from stress, challenge, tragedy, trauma or adversity. When children are resilient, they are braver, more curious, more adaptable, and more able to extend their reach into the world.

The good news is that resilience is something that can be nurtured and strengthened in all children. Parents play a vital role in promoting and supporting the building of resilience in their children, as the chief executive of Parenting NI, Charlene Brooks explains.

"Resilience increases children's ability to cope with the increasing pressures and stresses of modern life. We hear every day from parents of the challenges their children and young people are experiencing – for example, bullying, parental separation, exam stress, pressures from social media and mental health concerns.

"Research tells us that children with strong, supportive parental relationships are more likely to be more resilient. When you take this into consideration along with the pressures on mental health services, there is a clear need for parental support to ensure the best outcomes for children and young people."

An online campaign will run throughout the week giving parents tips and information on improving communication, managing emotions and raising self-esteem to help them build resilience in their children.

The organisation has also provided schools throughout Northern Ireland with resources to enable them to engage with parents and children on talking about emotions and building resilience.

Building resilience can start from birth and Parenting NI has teamed up with Mini Explorers Development and Play to put on two special fun mornings for parents in Ballymena and Magherafelt. Children will have the opportunity to explore emotion based play activities through unique sensory experience in a safe and fun filled environment, whilst parents can avail of information on emotional wellbeing and family support.

Top Tips for Building Resilience

:: Normalise setbacks and keep things in perspective

Explain to your child that it is not unusual to experience difficulties in life and show them that problems can be solved. Encourage your child to look at things within a bigger picture and remind them that bad feelings don't last, can have a purpose and can prompt us to do things differently in the future.

:: Talk about emotions

Help your child to understand emotions by talking about what happens when they feel a certain way. Flash face cards can be a useful way of exploring this through expressions with younger children. Once children can recognise emotions they will be able to identify triggers and how to manage those feelings. You can support them by suggesting coping strategies such as taking a deep breaths or counting to 10.

:: Be a good role model

Model resilience in your own behaviour; try to remain calm and consistent in how you handle challenges. Create a positive environment emphasising the importance of relationships.

:: Provide support and opportunity for learning

You can illustrate resilience to your child by pointing out how characters overcame difficult scenarios when reading stories or watching TV shows together. Let your children know they have people who love and care for them and give them help and advice when they need it.

:: The family fun days are in Harryville Community Centre, Ballymena, from 10am-1pm on October 25 and Greenvale Leisure Centre, Magherafelt, from 10am-1 pm on October 26. For further information visit Parentingni.org

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