Irish Independent - Health & Living - - KIDS’ HEALTH SPECIAL -

CARA and Chris Carter are par­ents to two chil­dren, So­phie (8) and Bran­don (4). They live in Rath­farn­ham, Dublin. Cara is the founder of Cheeky Squeaks, a baby mas­sage and yoga com­pany; cheekysqueaks.ie.

Cara says: “Like a lot of par­ents, I am just mud­dling through. You try to do your best but at the end of the day you’re hu­man and you’ve been raised by a dif­fer­ent set of par­ents.

If you look hard enough, you’ll find a re­search pa­per to back you up in what you choose to do — or to con­tra­dict you. Then you be­rate your­self and feel guilty. Ev­ery gen­er­a­tion is just try­ing to do the best with what they now know.

“My chil­dren get piz­zas and waf­fles as treats but they also get their meat and their two veg. Lidl does great minia­ture pep­pers and car­rots which are re­ally handy to have in the fridge. And frozen sweet­corn is a handy lit­tle snack as well.

It’s such a cliche but I do think ev­ery­thing in mod­er­a­tion. It’s re­ally naive to think that chil­dren can never have sugar be­cause I think, at some point, sugar is go­ing to cross their paths. So­phie turned around to me re­cently and said, ‘Ice cream makes you fat’. I said, ‘Ice cream won’t make you fat, dar­ling. Too much ice cream and not enough healthy stuff will make you fat’.

“Of course, then you’re afraid of talk­ing like that be­cause you don’t want them to start ob­sess­ing about body im­age. I re­ally strug­gle to know where the bar­rier is be­tween teach­ing them about the con­se­quences of things and mak­ing them neu­rotic and giv­ing them body im­age is­sues. And the trou­ble with be­ing a par­ent is that you never know if you’re get­ting it wrong un­til it’s too late.

“There was a time when So­phie was try­ing to watch iCarly and Sam & Cat on Nick­elodeon, but I put a stop to it be­cause I could ac­tu­ally see a change in her be­hav­iour when she was watch­ing th­ese shows about th­ese ob­nox­ious kids.

“I think this is why we’ve got chil­dren walk­ing around south Dublin with Amer­i­can ac­cents.”

Screen time is an is­sue too, says Cara.

“They have ac­cess to tablets but I don’t let them have smart­phones even though So­phie has me ab­so­lutely tor­tured for my old iPhone.

“So­phie gets an hour a day on her tablet and Bran­don only gets it if we’re go­ing some­where. I’ve heard peo­ple say it makes them so an­gry when they see par­ents stick­ing tablets in front of chil­dren in restau­rants but you know what, it works for us. The chil­dren en­joy it and we still sit down as a fam­ily to en­joy our meal.

“I don’t al­low them free rein, though. They’re not al­lowed un­re­stricted ac­cess to YouTube and they’re not al­lowed to play games with mes­sag­ing apps. “Even now, So­phie has me tor­tured for a game called Roblox, which has a mes­sag­ing ser­vice on it.

And at some point you have to make a call about what’s more dam­ag­ing: hav­ing ac­cess to this or the fact that they are go­ing to be seg­re­gated from their peers be­cause they don’t have it. It’s a real moral dilemma.

“The chil­dren play out­side ev­ery day and we try our best to get them to do at least 15 min­utes of read­ing a book and half an hour of draw­ing or writ­ing be­fore they get to sit and watch a movie. And I’ve been con­sciously try­ing to turn the tele­vi­sion off...

“In my classes, as an ice-breaker, I al­ways ask par­ents to share the best and worst par­ent­ing ad­vice they ever re­ceived. And I al­ways caveat it at the be­gin­ning by telling them that some­one’s best piece of ad­vice is al­ways some­one’s worst piece of ad­vice.

“It re­minds me of some­thing a mid­wife once said to me at an an­te­na­tal class. What­ever keeps your chin above the wa­ter­line is what’s right for you and your fam­ily. And that’s what I try to pass on.”

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