Leona O'Neill: Parentline NI offers a helpful 'listening ear'

Parenting is often the most rewarding job in the world, as well as the most challenging. However, a new service offering help and support to parents in times of need could be a vital lifeline, writes Leona

Parentline NI is a new free 'listening ear' advice service for parents

BEING a parent can be one of the toughest jobs in the world. There is no manual that comes with these kids of ours, and different periods of their childhood bring different challenges.

I am now the mother of two teenage boys. There are often times I find myself at a loss as to what to do in certain situations. Teens face so many challenges daily, from peer pressure over alcohol, drugs and sex to street violence and exam stress.

At times, it can feel like we are flying by the seat of our pants in this parenting game.

We can often feel like we are getting it all wrong, and sometimes it really is just a guessing game. Parenting can be very rewarding, of that there is no doubt, but it can also be a frustrating and at times, even frightening experience – but a new service might reduce our bewilderment and make things that little bit less stressful.

Children in Northern Ireland and Relate NI have announced a new partnership which is expected to help over 5,000 parents, carers and family members a year in the north through the Parentline NI service. Parentline NI is a free and confidential 'listening ear' service offering advice, support and guidance for anyone caring for or concerned about a child or young person.

In preparation for the new partnership, Children in Northern Ireland and Relate NI carried out research with 450 parents. They found a number of concerns regarding children and young people; 76 per cent stated behavioural management, 71 per cent were worried about keeping their children safe online and 44 per cent of parents expressed concerns about finding appropriate and cost-effective childcare.

Children in Northern Ireland's chief executive Pauline Leeson explains that they are delighted to partner with Relate NI to help parents and carers across Northern Ireland.

"Parenting children and young people is hugely rewarding," she says.

"However, at times it can be daunting, challenging and sometimes lonely, and often we don't know where to turn to for advice. It is our aim to ensure parents and carers from all backgrounds know that there is someone on the other end of a phone or web chat who can offer advice, guidance and support for any concerns or anxieties they are facing.

"Ninety four per cent of the parents we spoke to said they would find it helpful to have someone to talk to and give advice without judging – this is Parentline NI.

"We offer a team of qualified and experienced parent support officers so callers can be confident that they are speaking with someone who is good at listening, will treat their concerns with empathy and is committed to putting children and families first."

Relate NI's chief executive Duane Farrell says ensuring that all parents and carers have access to professional, non-judgemental information and support in their parenting role is a fundamentally important approach to improving the wellbeing of families throughout the north.

"Parents have told us about the many challenges that they face parenting in a changing world," he explains.

"Parentline NI is here to help them navigate those challenges. Relate NI are excited to be partnering with Children in Northern Ireland on this vital service and on supporting the diversity of parents and carers throughout Northern Ireland."

Parenting is genuinely the best job in the world and the one we get the most out of. But, if we're honest, it can be tough, it can be stressful, it can be relentless and, particularly if you are parenting alone, it can be brutal, thankless and exhausting at times.

Any help offered to us on our parenting journeys is always welcome.

:: Parentline NI is open Monday to Thursday from 9am to 9pm, Friday 9am to 5pm and Saturday 9am to 1pm. Call free on 0808 8020 400 or chat online at

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