Mayday! Exam time is here

It’s that time of the year again. Two words on most people’s lips can and will strike fear in students and parents alike, “exam time”.

Close up of a chewed pencil in a handThe amount of stress and anxiety that builds up around this time can get out of control and cause so many different problems at home.

As parents, we need to be mindful of our ways too and not place excess pressure on them during this time. We are right to want the best for our sons and daughters.

We want to make sure they get good grades, the real world is waiting for them and at times it’s a hard one, so we want the best options opened to them in their lives.

Finding ways to help

Talk to your kids and look at their exam schedule. Find out from them where their strengths and weaknesses are. They above anyone else, will be able to tell you what they have to focus on the most.

Study timetable

Make a study timetable with them, be involved and show them you will help as much as they need. But, try not to be too pushy.

Take the distractions away while they study. That means disconnecting them from the internet and social media. As a sign of solidarity, unplug the entire house to show them we all need a break from the web and life does gone on without it.

Finding their comfort zone

Make sure there are plenty of small breaks during their study times, a stretch of the legs and healthy power shakes does wonders for both body and mind.

Talk to them and see if things are working for them, if not then change the routine around a bit till it works for them.

Make sure they are not pulling any all nighters while studying. Sleep is vital for their bodies and most of all for their minds.

Good sleeping habits

Sleeping, especially when dreaming helps us to process events of the past and that helps our minds to focus on the events ahead of us the next day.

Changing life path

Remember some simple truths, our children are young and it could take years for them to find the right course of study and job in the future. On average, a person changes not just a job, but their entire career several times in their life.

So try not to place the fate of the world on their shoulders just yet. They still have a lot of maturing and growing to do between now and then. Our sons and daughters are quite intelligent as you know, with the right attitude and push, they will perform well and get the job done.

Children reaching out about suicidal thoughts

ISPCC’s Childline has reported that over 300 children contacted them last year about suicidal thoughts.

phone handsetSome of the children calling had previously made an attempt or had made a plan before they made the call. Hearing statistics like these can be terrifying for parents.

Adding to that fear, are experts on the topic claiming that knowing someone who has taken their own life increases your chance of doing the same.

Fear feeding silence

People can then become unable to discuss suicide openly. This leads to a culture of silence, which feels like a throwback to when suicide when was stigmatised and criminalised.

Death by suicide affects more than close family and friends, but also has an impact on communities.

Unanswered questions

In Ireland today, it is an unfortunate truth that most of us know someone who has taken their own life.

When someone we know takes their own life it can fill us with questions as to what we could have done? Were there signs we might have missed?

Having the conversation

As a parent, you may not know how to talk with your son or daughter about suicide.

Talking about suicide doesn’t put the idea into someone’s head. We all have suicidal thoughts at some stage in our lives, so you’re not planting a seed by bringing it up with your son or daughter.

Having an open dialogue with your son or daughter is important to be able to know what’s going on for them. Tease out how they have been affected by a suicide in their school or peer group.

Give them the space and time they need to say what’s on their mind. The experience of knowing someone, close or otherwise, who has died by suicide can be very confusing.

Look after your mental health

Suicide by its nature can be an upsetting subject to tackle, and watching and worrying about your family and how they are can be emotionally draining. Make sure you get support for yourself and mind your own mental health.

While not every young person will be actively thinking about the issue, suicide is everyone’s business. There is a way to talk about it openly and sensitively.

Everyone’s business

Checking in with your son or daughter and knowing what’s going on for them, helps them feel supported and assured that they can turn to you as a parent for support.

It’s not easy, but, the most important thing we can do as adults who care is provide permission, space and time for young people to talk about suicide in an open and honest way.

How to talk to a dragon? Sorry, a teenager

How do you talk to your teenage son or daughter on issues that may just lead to a shouting match?

Or cause them to raise their hands in the air and roll their eyes to the sky with every word you speak?

Woman in a pink striped top, sitting on a couch with her arms crossedHow do we say what needs to be said, when all they hear are orders, assumptions, put-downs and accusations?

Wouldn’t it be great to be that age again?

For most people, being a teenager was one of the hardest moments in their lives.

Peer pressure, stress from schools and feeling pressure and family relationships could all play on their minds.

We, as parents have to work out that fine line between the right approach in dealing with our son/daughter’s everyday worries and letting them work our their own independence.

Being mindful of our own past and their present life is tricky. How do we handle everyday parenting and be on the lookout for trouble spots?

Look who’s talking now

Communicating with your daughter or son can be at best confusing, often downright scary. But, this can work both ways. How we talk and listen can make a world of difference.

Why is it so hard to remember what it was like to be that age? Why does that parent gene over-ride all other emotions and sensitivity that could otherwise be so useful?

One direction?

Friend or foe, who are we to them? What is the right approach to take?

We’re parents first and foremost. Our role is to guide and mold them as best we can and with the tools we have at hand.

We can always learn better ways to relate and deal with our sons/daughters. There’s always room for improvement.

Dialogue

The way we speak and what we say makes a huge difference and should be carefully considered.

Communicating with a teenager can be like talking to an alien race which views and feels things totally different to what we actually say and do. At least, that’s my experience!

Relating is key

Try not to forget, we were once their age. Use of this knowledge can bring you closer to them as it can make it easier to relate to how they feel.

At their age, maybe you too found it hard to relate to adults? It can make it easier not to take it personally when they say we don’t understand them.

But then, of course we don’t! We’re adults now. But, we can still try to relate and we always need to show that we care.

Never be afraid to ask the hard questions and be prepared to support them, even if we get hard answers back.

Common ground

There’s always trials and errors as a parent. There’s no perfect method, and for the most part it will be a journey we’d gladly take again.

The thing is to find your similarities and get over your differences. It’s not always easy, but try to enjoy them as they are right now. It won’t be forever.

Whose technology?

When the first computer arrived in our house twelve years ago my Dad didn’t open the boxes for four days. He was so unused to technology he feared he’d break it.

A computer mouse with a keyboard in the backgroundToday he creates websites for work, books trips online and even uses social media. Technology infuses our lives more than ever before.

If you’re a parent though, it can be confusing, scary and overwhelming. Trying to keep up with your son or daughter and worrying about them has been taken a step further with the advent of the technological age.

Can’t we just leave them to it?

We could, but in doing so we’d be missing out on a large chunk of their lives.  Technology is as much as part of people’s identities now as music, sport and movies.

Mental health

It also plays a huge role in influencing people’s mental health, both positively and unfortunately sometimes negatively.

We’ve all heard the cyberbullying stories, but what about the benefits technology has brought? It’s made the world a much smaller place. This can be great for marginalised or lonely and isolated people.

Also, accessing reliable and informative information helps decrease stigma, remove barriers and increase understanding. This is true for everyone, no matter their age. It can be easy to forget how available  and convenient information now is, compared with just a few years ago.

Nothing to fear

If you’re unsure about something, dive right in. There’s nothing to fear, it’s highly unlikely you’ll break anything!

There are also great resources online to guide you through the myriad of apps and sites available.

However, you could just ask your daughter or son about what they’re using. Who better to educate you than a so-called digital native? I

What about the problems with technology?

Communicating with your son or daughter about key safety messages is a great way to minimise some of the concerns.

One of the most contentious points is the use, or perhaps, over-use of technology. Set boundaries, and be open about your concerns. But, also, be willing to listen to their point of view.

What can I do to support their use of technology?

Below are a few tips to managing with technology as a parent:

  • Agree boundaries and consequences, but try to work with your son/daughter on the details. If it’s collaborative it can be easier for them to stick to it.
  • Personal boundaries and levels of independence should be respected and adjusted based on their age, maturity, and earned trust.
  • Try to have a good understanding of technologies, particularly the mediums your son/daughter uses.
  • Lead by example, don’t have double standards. For example, if you’d expect them not to have their phone at the dinner table, don’t have yours there either.
  • There’s a fine line between participating in the young person’s online world and spying on them.
  • Open communication and trust in your relationship is extremely valuable and will help them more than any other strategy or piece of software.eir

The kids are all right

As a parent, much of your energy is probably going to be consumed with looking after, advising, supporting and worrying about your son or daughter. To the point where it’s easy to neglect your own wellbeing.

Note pad, with handwritten note saying, make time for meSometimes, the best thing you can do for them is to look after yourself.

Even grown-ups get the blues

A new study has shown most hospitals’ internal referrals to psychiatric services are of patients from the geriatric department.

OK, you might not quite describe yourself as geriatric. But, this Irish study shows the level of mental health problems suffered by the less young amongst us.

The research, presented by Dr Ruth Murphy, clinical lecturer in psychiatry, was looking specifically at inpatients. While this might not be a concern for you right now, it does demonstrate that older people, especially if struggling with something else, are at risk of developing mental health problems.

This doesn’t just apply to people already suffering with something, or who are hospitalised. Being trapped at home can lead to loneliness for example. Or, things like money worries can be overwhelming. Running a family isn’t easy.

Not just a teenage thing

One of the main issues affecting older sufferers was found to be that of self-harm. This could seem shocking and may all too easily be dismissed as those with the most extreme issues. However, it was far from the only thing affecting older people.

They were also referred to psychiatrists for, among other things:

What’s this got to do with you?

Maybe (hopefully) you’re not struggling with mental health issues. But, the point is, we all have the potential to develop problems at some point.

It’s good practise to monitor your overall heath (physical as well as mental) and make sure you’re minding yourself.

No harm in asking

If something’s not right, there’s no shame in seeking help and support. Though it’s often difficult to reach out, taking that first step will make all the difference.

The same goes for helping out friends or relatives. Just because someone is older, doesn’t mean they find things any easier.