Look who’s talking, texting, tweeting…

The amount of time spent online as opposed to living one’s so-called real life is the worry of the decade. If you’re a parent or guardian, this is likely to be amplified as you extend it to your son or daughter.

iPhoneWhether it’s through pads, pods, phones or TVs, the level of technology exposure younger people experience can be concerning.

Common sense

According to research conducted with teenagers for an article in the Irish Times, balance is key. As with most things, extremism helps nobody.

Trusting your son or daughter with some responsibility and giving them a sense of independence around their screen time might bring more positive results than you imagine.

Double standards

One thing that helps nobody is hypocrisy. The teenagers in the interview suggest that before you look at your son/daughter’s technology habits, it can be worth examining your own behaviour.

Leading by example can make a huge difference and can lead to more harmony when it comes to implementing any rules.

Educate together

If all things tech don’t come naturally, try asking those who know best about these things, your son or daughter. Don’t let fear of the unknown stop you trying things out.

Also, don’t be surprised if your son/daughter gets a bit impatient with your level of understanding.

Just try to keep your cool, communicate your request for help calmly and try to incorporate learning into daily life. Before you know it you’ll be playing them at their own game.

Move with the times

For those of us able to remember a time before mobiles and the prevalence of the internet, much time online can seem unnatural.

But, as the years tick on and the digital native generation expands, the idea of ‘spending time’ online may be a moot point. The use of technology will simply be a part of our lives. For many it is already.

That doesn’t mean it has to take over our families’ lives. Though acceptance can go a long way towards a happy medium and a more peaceful life.

 

 

Getting the best out of mid-term break for all the family

This term after Christmas can be a long and tiring time of year for some students. The combination of early starts, heavy workloads and lack of daylight can leave many feeling over tired and over stressed.

Youth Mental Health SleepMid-term offers a welcome break. It may feel like your son or daughter is always on holidays but, having the week to relax and reboot is important for students’ wellbeing.

Catching up on sleep

Getting enough sleep is something many of us struggle with. Feeling sleep deprived can lead to low mood and make everyday challenges harder to deal with.

Balancing homework, extra curricular activities and academic pressure can leave many students struggling with tiredness during term-time.

It’s now thought that teenagers needs between nine and ten hours sleep a night. Allowing time for lie-ins and rest when possible is a good thing.

Term-time blur

During mid-term encourage your son or daughter to take the time to get back into the things they enjoy doing.

Depending on time or money there are day trips they could take or get them to revisit a hobby, making the most of a less regimented schedule. Hobbies act as a good release from academic pressures all year round and help encourage a positive mood.

Keeping in touch

Being off school or college for some young people can mean being away from their friends, which means you could have a very grumpy young person hanging around. It can be quite isolating for them.

If you sense this, try to ask them about their friends and how they’re feeling. Encourage them to stay in touch with friends, within reason. It doesn’t mean they can spend the whole time at home on their phones.

Enjoying mid-term

There are only so many midterms.Term time stress can be an unavoidable part of life. Taking the time to relax is the best way of getting through the rest of the academic year in a positive frame of mind.

Raising a glass to your teenager

In a recent Irish Times article, six teenagers were asked their opinion on parenting. One of the topics discussed was alcohol, and the overall tone was a general need for balance.

Two pint of beer being held up in a toastExtremists

There were many perspectives given. Stories of parents buying alcohol and cigarettes for their son or daughter, others of young people never allowed out of sight. The consensus seemed to be that extremism never really works.

Starting at home

While the perceived wisdom used to be that it’s good to allow teenagers to drink moderately at home, this is no longer the case.

However, outright forbidding them to drink and pretending they never will might not be the best way either. For most teenagers there’ll probably come a time when they want to drink, or at least try it.

It’s your place as a parent to try to foster a balanced attitude to alcohol.

Walk the walk

Think about it, how do you actually demonstrate behaviour towards alcohol?

When you’re stressed do you openly sigh with relief once a glass is in hand? Are you a bit blasé about having three too many at the weekend even though your son/daughter is around?

This isn’t about judgement or guilt. But, most of us learn from our immediate environment. So, if you’re saying it’s unhealthy to drink too much, while also forming an everlasting relationship with a corkscrew, there’s bound to be mixed messages.

What are the consequences?

Part of balance and encouraging greater responsibility and independence is a need for rules. Though, whatever they are, try not to make them too harsh.

In the article, psychologist Niamh Hannon says this can create a feeling of unfairness. If that happens, the likelihood of your son/daughter acting out in ‘revenge’ increases.

Honesty is the best policy

Be open about what you’re feeling. Communication, of course, is the best method of trying to deal with any situation.

For instance, one of the teenagers interviewed said a parent’s anger is easier than the silent treatment. Disappointment is much harder to bear.

For more parenting tips given by the teens themselves have a read of the article here.

 

 

Taking your son or daughter to a psychiatrist

What is it like to bring your child to see a psychiatrist? What can you expect? What can you do to support your child when seeing a psychiatrist covered by Dr Maeve Doyle for ReachOut.com.

Self-harm and young people booklet

When a person engages in self-harm (also known as self-injury) they inflict physical harm upon themselves. This behaviour is usually done in secret.

booklet cover Some examples are cutting, burning, biting or hitting your body, pulling out hair or scratching and picking at sores.

Why would someone self-harm?

Most commonly, self-harm is a behaviour used to cope with difficult or painful feelings.

Self-harm is not necessarily a suicide attempt. Engaging in self-harm may not mean that someone wants to die.

Most commonly, self-harm is a behaviour used to cope with difficult or painful feelings.

If you learn that your son or daughter is engaging in self-harm

Don’t panic. Let them know you support them.

ReachOut Ireland, in conjunction with the HSE, have created this information booklet for parents and concerned adults.

Find out more about supporting someone who is engaging in self-harm.

Talking about a safer internet

Safer Internet Day falls on Tuesday, 10 February this year. Each year, the day aims to help us realise we all have a part to play in making the internet a safer space to be. 

Keys of a computer keyboardAlthough, as a parent,  it may not feel like it sometimes. There are countless stories to make parents feel they don’t even occupy the same space online as young people.

To be honest, you’re probably not. But, it’s not all bad, and getting a handle on what young people are doing online will help.

The kids are alright

Not all young people are being bullied or are bullies. It’s worthwhile keeping in mind that loads of young people are doing OK.

Though this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep an eye on your son or daughter.

We do still need to be careful

When it comes to dealing with something as serious as bullying (cyber or otherwise) we need to try and manage it properly.

We need to teach young people about online safety and also get them to consider their behaviour in relation to others.

Where do I start?

An easy way to begin communication about online safety is to chat about one of the many stories about celebrities who are overexposed online.

Recent examples of this can be seen in the email hackings of celebrities whose personal photos were then distributed online. In that case people were targeted because of their fame. But, it’s a good example of how private material can be distributed and how the individuals were treated.

What do they think?

Try having an open conversation with your son or daughter about what they think is appropriate.

  • What do they think is OK to share online?
  • What do they consider to be bullying behaviour?
  • Do they think of any future ramifications of their online behaviour?
  • Do they think about the people on the other end of what they’re writing/posting?

Unless it’s happening to them, there’s no reason to suppose they’ve even considered the kind of things which may be bullying. This is true in general, but especially so online, where everything is open to misunderstanding and interpretation.

Keep abreast of what’s going on

You don’t have to be the authority on technology, and neither are you expected to be. But, it is a good idea to keep an eye on what the popular sites and apps are and how they’re used.

There are loads of articles and sources of information on how to stay safe online. Like this example from Mashable: 12 things students should never do on social media.

Theory of evolution

Technology and how it’s used is continually evolving. This means you need to dip your toe in every so often to keep an eye on what’s going on.

To some, this may sound daunting.

You actually have a fountain of knowledge at your finger tips. No, not the internet. Your son or daughter! Why not ask them to teach you about technology? You never know what you might learn.

Valentine’s day, already?!

Yes, it’s just around the corner. So if you’re romantically involved with someone, don’t forget them (this includes partners of 20 years or more!).

The word love, spelled out in buttonsIf your son or daughter is of a certain age, you’re probably well aware this date is looming. When young people start becoming interested in relationships it can, understandably, cause concern for parents.

The birds and the bees

As awkward as it can be, the talk about sex, sexuality and relationships needs to happen. Despite how adult and knowledgeable a young person may seem, sex education by osmosis through peers, TV or online sources can be lacking.

Unfortunately this may be true even if they’re getting talks through schools.

How can you help?

Having a policy of open and honest communication is really the only way to approach things.

As much as possible try not to be heavy-handed or judgemental in your approach. This includes attitudes in day-to-day life. Watch the seemingly harmless comments on TV characters or strangers for instance.

Inform yourself too

Do you know what the kids are up to these days? Ok, you might not really want to know, but, information is key.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to know all the answers. But, being willing to research or point them in the right direction is useful. ReachOut.com have plenty of information on everything to do with sex.

Crossing the line

There’s a fine line between being helpful and interfering. Of course you’re concerned and only want to protect and help them, but they have a need and a right to some privacy too.

Especially during teenage years the job of a parent is to recognise and try to manage their need for more independence, while also needing support and protection from you.

Whoever said being a parent was easy?!

What’s love got to do with it?

Everything, that’s what. Particularly when it comes to learning to love oneself.

Encourage your son/daughter to respect and listen to themselves, and to be confident in their own skin. It will go a long way to helping them avoid unwanted situations, but enable them to handle things a little easier if something does happen.

Trust

If you’ve done your best to arm them with accurate, impartial information. Now it’s time to have faith that when the time comes they’ll act in their own best interests.

If all else fails…

Be willing to be there for them. If they make mistakes, remember, it’s not ideal, but it’s their learning curve. Besides, they’re only human.

Ultimately, they need to know you’re there to support and guide them, that you’re only looking out for them.