Supporting One Direction fans

Naoise Kavanagh, Online Communications Manager with ReachOut Ireland was on the Sean Moncrieff show, on Newstalk talking about the fallout of Zayn Malik leaving One Direction and the impact it can have.


A number of young people were so upset by the announcement that they started to self-harm and use the hashtag #cutforzayn and sharing images of this.

Discovering that your son or daughter is self-harming

If you find out that your son or daughter has been engaging in self-harm it can very frightening and difficult to understand. The thing to remember is not to judge the behaviour and try to talk to them about what is going on.

Find ways to support someone who is self-harming. Also read self-harm and young people booklet for parents.

What does a bipolar diagnosis mean?

The birthday of Vincent Van Gogh, today is also World Bipolar day. Unless someone close to you has bipolar, you’ve probably not had much cause to think about it.

Multi-coloured buttons and two bird broachesIt’s frequently mentioned in film and media, but, what would it mean if someone like your son or daughter, received a bipolar diagnosis?

Shock

It’s very likely you’d feel some sort of shock at first. Even though, chances are, something your daughter or son has been experiencing led to the point of the diagnosis.

This reaction is nothing to be ashamed of. No-one expects someone close to them to develop any kind of health issue, mental or physical. Remember, things like bipolar can be managed.

What exactly is it?

Bipolar literally means polar-opposites. Somebody with bipolar disorder can experience huge variations of being up (known as mania) and down (depression).

While we all have fluctuations of mood, somebody with bipolar might experience extremes of emotion. Particularly in comparison to what’s actually happening in their life.

Learning to manage

Learn as much as you can about the condition and what specifically is happening for your son/daughter.

Understanding what’s happening and the potential impact on your family’s life will make it easier to help your son or daughter with their bipolar.

Can it be treated?

How to best treat or manage your daughter or son’s bipolar should be discussed with their health-care professional. Individual cases of bipolar disorder will vary hugely, which means there’s no one-for-all fix.

Accept help

Access support, for both you and your son/daughter. There’s really no shame in seeking help.

This can be on an informal basis, through friends and family, as well as the professional support provided to help you manage.

Working with people who are there to help will make it easier for you to enable your son or daughter to live the life you’d like for them.

George Hook on bullying

George Hook has released a video in which he reads out hate mail he’d received. Love him or hate him, his handling of the bullying letter he received is to be applauded.

NewsTalk radio host George HookBeing open about what’s going on is the best policy in any kind of bullying situation. In sharing the letter with the world, George effectively removed any power the bully had.

Open up

If your son or daughter is being bullied, it can be very hard to know how to help.

More than anything else, encourage them to be open with you in terms of any mistreatment. Reassuring them it’s not about what they’ve done, they’re not alone and they’ll have your support will go a long way.

Building blocks

Help them to build confidence and learn how to communicate in a more assertive manner. These are things that can be improved and strengthened over time.

If someone feels more secure in who they are, and they know how to be assertive, it’s much more unlikely bullying will continue.

What if my son or daughter is the bully?

If your daughter or son is the bully, it’s most likely they’re suffering in some way themselves. Maybe they’re being bullied, have low self-esteem or need more support and attention.

It doesn’t mean they’re a bad person, but that they need some help. Open communication and trying to deal with whatever’s going on for them will most likely help. However, it may not be easy to identify what they’re going through.

No shame in asking

There’s nothing wrong with seeking support, either informally or from professionals. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. In fact it’ll probably make you better able to support your son or daughter.

Strength in numbers

As George himself says, he’s strong enough to take this kind of bullying. But, many people aren’t.

Fostering an environment of trust and open communication and encouraging your son/daughter to build their sense of self is the first step to protecting them.

Spring forward to the clocks changing

Finally it feels as if spring is here. We seem to be getting real bursts of sunshine. What’s more, when you’re in it, it’s warm!

Image of a clock face showing the time as four forty-two. From Apple's iPone interface.With the clocks moving forward, we have an extra hour of light in the evenings.

Good news

Such seemingly small things can bring about big changes. Not least, they can have a positive impact on mental health.

For example, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a condition caused by lack of sunlight. It can result in depression, really impacting someone’s day to day life.

But, even if someone’s not actually suffering from SAD, the winter, as we all know, can make life tougher.

Whatever the weather

It’s good to encourage your son/daughter to get outside for fresh air and vitamin D from sunlight, which can improve mental well-being.

Many of us are not inclined to get out and exercise unless the weather is fine. But, as we’re constantly reminded, exercise can make a huge difference to our mental and physical well-being. This is as true for younger people as for any of us.

OK, so the weather’s not always clement in Ireland. However, the longer evenings should make it easier to persuade them that getting out is a good thing.

Best foot forward

If your son or daughter is reluctant to cross the threshold to the great outdoors, it might help if you get out there with them.

Lead by example. Creating an environment where things like exercise and healthy eating are just a part of life makes it easier for young people to set up good habits.

Take it easy

This doesn’t mean you have to set up military-like regimes. Simply getting out for a walk together, making the most of the longer evenings, is all it takes.

It can be a good way to unwind, for you and them. Even if there’s other stuff going on like exam preparation, it’ll all be helped by staying on top of your/their overall wellbeing.

Besides, it might mean you get to spend some quality time together, beyond the daily grind. Activities together can be a great way to keep or create good communication in families.

What’s wrong?

A recent poll carried out by the Irish Times looked at the main cause for worry amongst people in Ireland. It was conducted with the help of 1,000 participants over the age of 15 years old, up to retirement.

A red haired man sitting on a chair, bent forward with his head in his hands.By far the two biggest stresses overall were not having enough money to meet monthly outgoings and not having enough time.

Other common worries are the ability to balance work and family life, health problems and relationship issues.

Ageing well

Getting older seems to be a good thing for our stress-levels. According to the survey, the least worried people are those who are retired.

Almost half the people who were retired said they didn’t worry about any of the concerns given on the survey.

Parents have it tough

Not surprisingly, the study found that parents have plenty to worry about. However, it seems that things generally get better the older your family are.

While 90% of parents whose sons or daughters are under 13 years of age stressed about one of the issues raised, this fell to 88% for parents of teenagers. Then it fell again to 63% of parents whose offspring are over the age of 18 years.

Nothing new

You’re probably all too aware of the worries you have. Maybe they’re strikingly similar to what the survey found, or perhaps completely different. Either way, simply identifying them won’t necessarily ease your stress.

What can I do about it?

Mind your own business. As in, literally take care of yourself. It’s easy to get caught up in just getting on with whatever needs to be done, but we all need time to relax and just ‘be’.

Stress can be managed, and once we start to deal with it, it’s often easier to sort out whatever was stressful in the first place.

Ask for help

Don’t be ashamed to ask for support. Either informal, through family or friends, or through professionals. People are there to help, you don’t need to worry alone.

 

With exams looming, who’s more stressed?

The John Murray Show on RTÉ brought the issue of exam stress to the fore this morning. But, rather than just focusing on the students, the discussion looked at the effects on the parents.

Hands pulling apart a ball of elastic bandsStressed out

Whether it’s you who’s stressed or your daughter or son, there are ways to manage things. This is true for life in general. However, there are certain times in life when coping strategies may be more needed.

Junior or Leaving Cert

What exams your son or daughter are taking might impact how affected they are by it all.

The parents chatting on the radio both had offspring sitting exams at Junior and Leaving level. They agreed that in their experience the Leaving Cert seems to create more pressure for students sitting the Leaving certificate.

However, how someone deals with any kind of stress will come down to any number of factors, not least their personality.

How can you support them?

Maybe you’ve not got the best head for higher level maths or whatever, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help with exam preparation. Simply giving them the right environment can make a huge difference.

Some basics that make all the difference:

  • Good, nutritious food available at regular times
  • Calm environment, if possible give them space to study
  • Encourage regular exercise, even just a walk
  • Allow them some time out from studying too – to see friends or watch TV etc.

Look after yourself too

As the John Murray show discussed, this time can be just as stressful for parents as for their sons and daughters. Which means it’s very important you make space for yourself.

If  you’re as rested as can be and are minding yourself, it’ll be much easier to deal with the ups and downs of exam time, for everyone.

Time to stop worrying about social media?

A recent article in the Washington Post looks at research suggesting usage of sites like Twitter and Facebook can be a positive thing.

The Facebook logo with the Facebook 'like' symbol - a thumb stuck up in frnt of it. From inventorspot.comGood news

When it comes to stories about being online, far too much time has been spent scaremongering.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t keep online safety in mind, especially when it comes to thinking of your son or daughter. But, it’s nice to finally start hearing more about the positives of social apps and sites.

Lower stress levels

Research found that using social media often results in people feeling less stressed and more in touch with their peers or community.

In touch with feelings

Expressing ourselves on a social media platform is one thing, ostensibly a positive thing. But, in reply to other posts it can, it seems, also help us tune in to ourselves.

Take Facebook, there’s only one instant way to acknowledge what someone else has published, by ‘liking’ the post. So if we wish to express something more personal we’re forced to consider how we feel and also articulate this and create a reply.

Relating to and acknowledging your feelings is all part of looking after your mental health. So Facebook might actually be aiding better mental health

Mixed reactions

It’s not that all interactions immediately make us feel good, but that often even things that make us feel a bit down can ultimately be a cause for good.

The article reports that upsetting or concerning posts or tweets often cause us to take positive action. This can have a good impact on society at large, while also boosting the self-esteem of the person prompted to do something good.

So, is social media good for my daughter or son?

It means that it can be good, but more importantly, it’s not all bad. Like many things, it’s not the social media that’s good or bad, it’s how we use it that matters.

Your son/daughter may still need guidance around technology and staying safe online. However, just because something has potential down-sides doesn’t mean it can’t also do us a favour.

Feel the pressure?

A recent article in The Irish Times interviewed teenagers about their opinions on a whole range of parenting subjects. One of which was pressure around school work.

Note books and pens scattered over a deskThe young people interviewed didn’t actually think their own parents applied too much pressure. Though, they all had friends they thought suffered from this style of parenting.

It’s what they need

Is strict time management and extra pressure actually what they need? For some, maybe, but for many it’s probably not.

Everyone’s parenting style is different, and that’s OK. Much will depend on your expectations and hopes for your son or daughter, as well as their personality and needs.

Everyone’s different

Try to take your son or daughter for who they are. As one of the teenagers put it, “some people aren’t able academically to succeed as well as others”.

Maybe they’re academically capable and just need a bit of encouraging. But, maybe their gifts lie elsewhere and they already find school quite stressful. In which case they’ll more likely need regular support and reassurance.

Balancing act

Of course no one’s saying there shouldn’t be structure, especially when there’s schoolwork involved. But, like all people, each teenager is different, so the style of structure they need will vary.

Plus, there’s a fine line between creating a suitable environment and applying too much pressure. A fine line that can be quite difficult to tread, as you’re more than likely aware.

Doing your best

Whatever you’re doing, it’s probably your best. But, there’s no shame in not knowing what to do or in needing a bit of support.

Don’t be afraid to talk to people about the trials of parenting.

Knowing you’re not alone in the challenges you have with your teenager may help. Chatting to other parents of adolescents can give you a bit of perspective and encouragement that you’re not doing so badly!

External support

If you need specific advice for helping your son/daughter with study, or anything else, their school’s faculty should be able to guide you in the right direction.