The issue highlighted in the UNICEF report An Overview of Child Well-being in Rich Countries [http://bbc.in/qAJ4rE the link to the UNICEF research is contained in this article] is of very real concern and something we in Ireland should listen to and respond to quickly. Ireland is currently 13th on the list in terms of how happy our children are, which is at the halfway mark on the UNICEF table.
Only last week the Irish Examiner carried an article on their front page http://bit.ly/nzcX9f detailing that research with 300 Irish Parents who work outside of home showed that 60% of parents say they are too tired to read a bedtime story to their children at the end of the day (see my earlier blog on importance of this here http://bit.ly/qlkqlc )…we may not be as far behind the UK as we’d like to think in terms of how happy our children are!
The Journal.ie reported yesterday that one in three Irish Children are deprived of basic necessities http://bit.ly/nWBzoe So what constitutes a basic necessity:
- Three balanced meals each day with fruit / vegetables and meat / fish
- Enough of the right clothes for different seasons, e.g. a coat to keep warm and dry in winter
- Separate bed and bedding of their own
- Their own books for reading for fun
- Food and drinks for friends when they call over to play
- Own money for school activities or days out
- A family holiday once a year (can be in Ireland or abroad)
- Day out with family at least twice a year (e.g. go to beach, fun fair, leisure centres)
- Visit to a restaurant for a family meal at least twice a year
- A bank, post office or Credit Union account to save money
- Shops close to home (e.g. food shops, clothes shops or chemist)
- A trip to the library
This list is evidence that when it comes to children’s needs it is your time and not stuff that children need! “Unicef paints a picture of a country [UK] that has got its priorities wrong – trading quality time with our children for “cupboards full of expensive toys that aren’t used”. Children need quality, one to one time with their parents to grow and develop into happy and content adolescents and then adults. As parents we have to learn how to make time for our children!
I deliver a Positive Parenting Training workshop for parents who work outside of home in terms of how to maximise your quality time with your child when you do not have quantity time with them and one of the key messages is that planning is essential…no one is saying that it is easy to balance a career and family at the same time but is something that, as a parent, you must plan around!
In my experience the majority of people want to be good parents but just aren’t sure how to achieve this. In a culture where we study, train and take courses in all aspects of our careers to ensure that we are as skilled as we can be, it is still stigmatised to say that you need a parenting course to help you work this out…this has to change! When parents feel that they are getting it wrong they will often overcompensate with material goods in a “I can’t give you myself so I will give you a new toy/gadget etc instead”. In children’s consultation focus groups children never report that toys or “stuff’ (material goods) make them happy and top of their list is to spend time with their parents.
In Ireland, not unlike the UK, we have had a decade of material wealth and consumerism, which is now abruptly gone! There is an entire generation of children for whom this is a very new concept. The same can be said for many adults too! Parents are under increasing pressure to work all the hours they can to sustain the family finances meaning less and less time to spend with your children as a family, a balance is essential to turn this around so that we do not find ourselves with a generation of depressed and unhappy children.
Planning I’ve blogged on this point before but it is very important and worth a second mention here within this context:
Practical tips for working Parents on how to Make Time Work out a personal schedule and break all the little ‘tasks’ up – it might not feel so overwhelming
- Plan your week ahead: Tuesday/ Thursday is story night, Friday is make-your-own-desert night, short hike on Sunday afternoon. In this way time won’t fly away with all your good intentions.
- Plan the week’s menu ahead of time and go for healthy but quick meals during the week days. All this planning might take up one whole evening but the rest of your week will flow pleasantly because of this and hopefully leave you with extra time
- Chat over bath time and catch up on their day (age depending, of course)
- Make a point of having dinner or breakfast together and don’t be in a rush. Talk about your day and ask about theirs
- Take an extra ten minutes to read the bedtime story and kiss them goodnight
- Use your weekends to make up for lost time. Try to spend time with each child individually, even if it means taking her with you to the shop (give your child a mini-list of items they are responsible for getting or give them the list and they can tick off items as you buy them) or the carwash.
- Try to balance your weekends with chores and activities you can do with your children.
- Opt for an outing like a picnic/walk or baking (if raining) rather than a movie. This will create an opportunity for them to talk and you to listen.
It is always important to focus on solutions and responses to reports like this UNICEF one and only last week I delivered 3 Positive Parenting (with focus on how parents who work outside of home can maximise the quality time with their children when they don’t have quantity time) to staff of some medium and large organisations and the attendance at all trainings was very large with a good gender balance, which the companies who organised were surprised and delighted about. It is important that companies acknowledge the pressures that their staff are under in terms of work/life balance and it is in everyones interest to offer training workshops like this one (we offer many more on a variety of parenting topics) to show their staff that they care and are invested in making it an easier balance to maintain, which in turn will increase morale and decrease absenteeism in companies.
In general, society must move to respond to this issue and work together to ensure we are raising happy children because happy children make a happy society, this effects all of us, whether we have children or not. A government subsidised Parenting Course available to all parents at various stages of their children’s development would go a long way to helping with this and the benefits would be felt throughout society – we have this expertise in Ireland, let’s use it to turn this around and climb into the top 5 of the UNICEF list by the time they repeat this study! While I will always tell parents that they are the experts on their own children I will emphasise that it is also ok to ask for help when you need it!
In addition to individual therapeutic supports, Solamh Clinic offers a variety of Positive Parenting focused trainings including Maternity Leave Support Program; Parent Child Communication; Effective Discipline; Developmental Play to help Children grow and develop; How to Maximise quality time with your child when you don’t have quantity time with them and many more. All trainings can be tailored to suit your organisations needs – call Joanna on 016976568 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information www.solamh.com