Life/parent coach Eileen Keane Haly has been mentoring children and teens for over 10 years. But the mum-of-four still recalls how tough it was to be first in her family to have children.
“I was lucky to have friends with kids older than mine who I turned to for advice. It helped when making decisions about letting my kids go to their first disco, the clothes I should allow them wear, the trust I should give them.”
A standout memory of feeling at sea as a mum dates to when her eldest daughter started secondary school – over 10 years ago now. “Day after day, she arrived home in a mood, speaking to me disrespectfully – she was a different child. I took it really personally.”
Eileen’s friend highlighted that the girl was trying to fit in with a new peer group, trying to “look right, act right, speak right”, that home was her safe place, where she could let her emotions out.
“She said: ‘Let her rant and rave – then talk to her’. I did, and she opened up, telling me how hard it all was. She asked to meet some of her primary school friends – she needed to feel herself.”
Director of Jump Start Your Confidence, Eileen says this is just one illustration of the personal learning curve she’s been on as a parent – and this experience helped shape her realisation that children communicate through their behaviour and that when the child is experiencing a tough time and acting out as a result, it’s about them and not about the parent.
Working with more than 1,500 children/teens a year privately and within the school system, Cork-based Eileen has distilled this professional experience, as well as personal realisations gained from motherhood, into her just-launched book:
With chapters entitled ‘The Importance of Active Listening’ and ‘The Importance of Setting Boundaries’, the book’s full of reassuring, commonsense advice. “Don’t see your children as an extension of yourself,” she warns.
“They’ve different thoughts and expectations. My husband and I thought sport was the answer to everything. When I saw my then 12-year-old pirouette around a football pitch, I thought ‘maybe not’ – now she has a degree in drama.”
From telling young kids struggling with friendship issues that sometimes children don’t meet their real friends ‘til they’re a bit older, to reminding teens that someone who seems blissfully happy on Instagram might, just minutes later, be crying in their room, Eileen is a fresh, practical voice.
- The greatest gift you can give children is to never stop working on yourself. Get yourself into a happier place mentally and physically. Seek the support you need to do this.
- Accept children for who they really are – they’re unique with their own dreams and ambitions. A parent’s job is to help them build on these and become their true selves.
- Apologise – say: ‘I had a really stressful day, give me a few minutes to calm down’.
- Trust your children, until they give you a reason not to.