19/02/2019

NI Parents Lack Hope For Their Children's Future

Over 60% of parents in Northern Ireland are more worried than hopeful about their children's future, according to a recent study by Parenting NI.

The region's leading parenting support charity has revealed the findings from a first-of-its-kind study into the realities of parenting in Northern Ireland, which surveyed 1,192 people towards the end of last year.

The body has since called for the restoration of the power-sharing institutions at Stormont to facilitate change and allow government ministers to address the concerns expressed in the report.

Parents overwhelmingly identified more challenges than opportunities for their children, with their main concerns being the impact of technology and social media on young people, along with mental health and the cost of childcare.

Many expressed frustration at the current political uncertainty and conveyed their fears that important decisions are not being made which is having a damaging impact on health and education budgets. This in turn is putting more pressure on families, with long waiting lists for services and parents being asked to plug the funding gap in schools.

Another worrying figure is that 82% of survey participants said they do not feel parents get enough support. Their answers indicated that they felt society was not very supportive of those in a parenting role and that more could be done to raise awareness of the services available to them.
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Jenny Smithson, a mother to 3 daughters, spoke of her experience: "I am generally an optimist, but even the most optimistic parent has concerns. And even the most confident parent has moments when they think - I'm nowhere near up to this task. I have concerns about keeping my children safe online and worry about the impact that social media might have. I hope that it won't shape my girls identity - that the number of likes/followers or whatever else won't become more important to them than life outside the screen.

"I also worry about the impact this has on young people's mental health and trying to teach my children how to deal with their emotions is something that I have found really challenging. So many of the concerns of a parent are navigating new fears, things that didn't exist when we were kids, or maybe even the same things, that now seem very different when it is our children facing them. The world may in many ways seem more daunting, and unstable than it has been, and in general it seems as though hope is at a low ebb. We must not put our heads in the sand."

Charlene Brooks, Chief Executive at Parenting NI commented: "The findings from this report are deeply concerning. Parents are telling us that they have serious concerns about their children's future in Northern Ireland and have little hope that it will get better any time soon. We are calling on those in policy making / commissioning roles to give parents a reason to be hopeful again. A lot of the issues parents are concerned about cannot be addressed without a government; we need to have decisions made on policies and strategies that will work to the benefit of families in Northern Ireland."



(JG/MH)

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