One of the greatest challenges for parents is making sure our children are happy and confident in themselves and able to deal with the challenges they face in the wider world.
When they are home, we can protect them and keep them safe. But, once they start school and their friends and peers become increasingly important to them, it can be difficult for parents to know what is really going on with their child and how best to support them.
As children grow in to their teenage years, this can become even more challenging - when the previously happy, chatty child becomes withdrawn and wants to spend most of their time in their room, is this normal adolescent development or is it a sign that something is wrong?
If your child is having difficulty with friends, is this just learning to deal with relationships or could it be a sign of something more serious such as bullying? There are no simple answers to these questions, but below are a few things that you can try to make sure that your child knows they can trust you and talk to you if they do have problems.
* Find time to listen. Your child might not always be ready to communicate when you are, so, if they do come to you to talk, make the time even if there are still lots of things undone on your to-do list. Schedule regular family time including family meals when you can all relax and enjoy each other’s company.
* Keep technology in shared family space. Part of ensuring that your child is not becoming isolated or overwhelmed is keeping in touch with their on-line life. Agree limits on how often they use technology and make sure that you are around when they are on it. Keep technology out of bedrooms as much as possible.
* Support them to get involved in something they really enjoy. The satisfaction of mastering a new skill, making new friends and doing something fun will have great benefits for your child’s mental health. Don’t force involvement but encourage them to stay engaged.
* Engage with their friends. As children get older, their friends will have a huge influence on them. Take the time to get to know their friends and build relationships with them-this will help you to keep in touch with what is going on in their world.
This article was contributed by a member of Parenting Limerick. Parenting Limerick is a network of parenting and family support organisations. For more information on this and other topics go to www.loveparenting.ie.
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