A Care Box for Courage and Resilience - Sam Builds a Nest

Sam Builds a Nest - A Child's Care Box for Courage and Resilience.

Build a nest. Build #resilience . For children and the grown-ups who love them, a toolkit for embracing challenge and change. The only #Christmas gift this year. @kickstarter #mentalhealth

Living with a Disability_ Preparing Your Life and Home for Parenthood

Welcome our guest blogger Ashley Taylor

Photo Credit: StockSnap Pixabay

While a good estimate of how many of women with disabilities give birth each year doesn’t exist, experts know that more than 1 million women of childbearing age have a physical disability. Whether it’s multiple sclerosis, visual impairment, or cerebral palsy, these women need some assistance with daily living because of their disabilities. Preparing for a baby is exciting, but it’s also stressful and challenging even under the best circumstances. If you’re a parent with a disability who’s preparing for parenthood, follow some tips to ensure your life and home are as prepared as possible.

Obviously, your home will need to be baby-proofed, regardless of whether you have a disability. General home safety is the first step to take when preparing your home for parenthood. Ensure all smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are working and that your home has an adequate amount. Also, ensure that you own a fire extinguisher and that large pieces of furniture and televisions are secured.

As your baby grows, the potential hazards will change, but for starters, all cords should be kept at least 3 feet away from the crib, and cords throughout the home should be secured. Keep in mind that any cord can be a hazard. As your baby approaches the crawling stage, you’ll need to cover electrical outlets and remove anything that plugs in, such as nightlights or air fresheners. Also, add padding to tables with sharp corners or edges, and install latches or locks on doors, cabinets and appliances. Continuously check the floors and reachable areas for choking hazards.

What you need in the home to help you care for your child will depend on your disability and its severity. Occupational therapists are one option, and they can help with bathing, changing, feeding, and carrying babies or children. You may also wish to hire a nanny in addition to or in place of an occupational therapist.

If you live with a disability, there is special equipment to help with everyday tasks if you have a baby or young child. For example, there are flashing alarms and intercom systems to help you know when your baby is crying if you’re hearing impaired. Visually impaired parents can benefit from harnesses that have easy-to-use straps and clips with contrasting colors to highlight adjustable parts. Cribs and playpens have adjustable heights for individuals with disabilities, and some feature removable side bars or panels.

When purchasing baby essentials, keep your disability in mind. For example, if you have a disability that affects your mobility or strength, look for strollers that are lightweight and easy to push and fold. Some models have adjustable handle height, and specialized strollers can be attached to wheelchairs. Select sturdy high chairs with adjustable heights and easy-to-use straps and clips.

As far as preparing your life, just be prepared that you may sometimes feel left out in your child’s care. Disabled parents describe their experience this way, as they may not be able to push the stroller or pick their child up if they fall. However, they also note that they find creative ways to hold smaller babies, such as in a sling on their front while in a wheelchair. Also, as the child becomes older and more independent, those feelings of being left out can fade.

You may wish to go ahead and decide how you’ll help your child to understand your disability. “Children are naturally curious and may have a lot of questions about your disability,” says Healthdirect. Openly discussing your disability with your child can help them understand your limitations or why your child could accidentally cause you pain if they aren’t careful. Discussing your disability can also help to teach them to be empathetic and insightful.

Use formal support services as much as possible. While acknowledging you need help may be difficult, receiving adequate assistance is imperative, as it can make things easier for you and your child. Also, welcome the support of friends and family, and reach out to a wider network of community support groups. Some disabled parents find counseling to be beneficial.

No parent is ever 100 percent ready for parenthood. Preparing your life and home for this kind of change is scary. You’ll wonder if you forgot something or if you got too much of another thing. Try not to stress too much. Parenthood is also highly rewarding. When you’re having a particularly rough day, you may find that the unconditional love from your child is just the medicine you need.

Contact: Ashley Taylor                                   

7 Ways to help your Child Bloom

Spring is in the air, seven ways to help your child to bloom rather than wilt…the Buddy Bench method. 

As parents it’s a key concern to do everything we can to raise a happy, confident and creative child, but it can be difficult to see the difference between what actually works long term and what will eventually become a quick fix that didn’t work or even worse a total myth..

Years of research into how the mind works. The first and most important being that it’s best to start at the beginning!  All too often we as a society try to ‘fix’ problems later down the line.

Reacting to what has already gone wrong. Research has indicated that as that old adage says ‘it’s far better to prevent than cure’. With that said,  teaching children to identify and manage their emotions, thereby building emotional intelligence skills, resilience and  wellbeing at the earliest possible age is certainly the way forward when it comes to preventing mental health issues further down the line. Yes even as young as three in our Little Buddies workshop.

7 top tips are supported by some of the pioneers of our time when it comes to Positive Psychology, Positive Thoughts and Empowering Children.

1.Teach your child to live in the moment! A wandering mind is an unhappy mind… It has often been said the the present is called just that because it is a gift! Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert recently conducted an experiment that showed that focus on what we are doing rather than what has happened in the past or may happen in the future produced vastly increased levels of happiness…

2. Encourage positive emotions!  Learning to purposely invoke feelings of love, happiness, care and appreciation is now proven to have profound positive effects on both our minds and bodies. Even greater is the ability to notice a negative emotion and choose to shift to a positive one instead.

3.Allow your child to play to their strengths, while learning to grow… Finding the balance between doing what is familiar and easy, with discovering new things and learning strengths we never knew we had is one of the keys to feeling happy and fulfilled.

4.Provide your child plenty of opportunities for love and connection… Research has shown that a child can increase their school grades through simply eating meals with their family and engaging in conversations. Put your devices away and chat.

5.Encourage your child to ask empowering questions… What else is possible? For example will generate completely different answers than What’s wrong with me, why can’t I do this? Asking empowering questions will cause your child’s brain to search for empowering answers, while asking dis-empowering questions will return answers that confirm the question being asked!

6.Encourage your child to build a vision for the future… If you don’t know where you’re going all roads lead there!  If a child is able to decide from an early age what they want their future to look like they can engage something called the Reticular Activating System (the part of our brain responsible for seeing more red mini’s on the road than ever before once we either decide that’s what we want to buy or actually get one!). Once engaged the Reticular Activating System (RAS) is designed to seek out and move towards what we have created as a vision. Helping a child set goals, write them down and draw what they will look like will power rocket the RTA into action!

Last but not least, in fact vitally important is to 

7.Celebrate Successes… Once a child has set and achieved even the smallest of goals, celebrate, celebrate, celebrate! Look for things to celebrate.

Why not pick up a journal for your child and get them to start with three things they are thankful for each day either written down or drawn on the pages so they can spend vital time feeling good about themselves and their lives.


Introduce Social and Emotional Learning into a School

Many of you are at the stage of introducing new ideas to the PTA, we found this article on seven suggestions for getting others at your school on board with social and emotional learning. More and more Irish teachers, principals and board members' are embracing the importance of SEL. 

For social and emotional learning to become widespread in schools, those already dedicated have to bring in their hesitant colleagues. Award-winning journalist Steve Adubato has studied the process of getting buy-in in his book Lessons in Leadership (Rutgers University Press, 2016).

Seven Tips for Bringing People Around

Although Adubato’s book doesn’t focus specifically on education, I’d like to highlight some of his key ideas about buy-in and relate those to getting folks on board with social and emotional learning at your school. (All quotes are from his book, pp. 136-138.)

1. “Accentuate the positives, but don’t act as if there won’t be challenges,” Adubato advises. Remember, even if a change is challenging or difficult, many school staff and board members will accept it if they believe in you as a leader. Establish credibility and trust by recognizing the obstacles and challenges present, while communicating confidence that those hurdles can be overcome. Communicate that you’re not asking your colleagues to do something brand new. Other educators like them and in schools like theirs have implemented SEL successfully despite facing many of the same initial concerns, such as finding the time for lessons or worries about how to evaluate SEL progress.

2. Explain clearly how the status quo can actually be more dangerous and risky than the change. Change is difficult, so it will often seem easier to continue to do what we’ve been doing. As many of us know from our experiences in schools, overwhelmed educators are often operating in survival mode and resist change, taking the stance of “don’t rock the boat.” 

“Really good leaders make it crystal clear that the risks of not changing present concrete and serious problems; make it clear what the payoff or tangible benefits of implementing this change will be.”

So when a school doesn’t adopt social and emotional learning and restorative practices, it may continue to face discipline problems that affect student safety and morale and take up precious instructional time. So SEL leaders must provide evidence and a convincing argument to show how the boat is, in fact, sinking or how some folks below deck are drowning. It has to become apparent why curriculum and class procedures and systems must change.

Instead of forcing everyone to fit into a fixed mould, we should be allowed to explore what we’re passionate about’ (Fourth year, female,  co-educational school,  Co Dublin)

3. Change is personal, not virtual. “Too many organizations try to sell the change through detailed standard-operating procedure manuals or highly detailed descriptions of the steps needed to implement the changes." Extensive online resources, though valuable and well intended, are more likely to be daunting than helpful at the beginning of a change process. This happens in education as well (web searching “best practices in implementing SEL in schools” yields 3.8 million results). Before passing out any curricular materials or resources, an SEL leader must begin with a clear conversation about what the vision is, how things will look and feel once the changes have taken place, and why those changes will be beneficial to all—students and teachers. Buy-in never happens through “compliance, command, and control.” It happens through understanding. Then the details can be better grappled with.

"‘Not all students are the same – one size does not fit all.’ (Third year, male, boys-only school, Co Monaghan)

4. Take the position that making progress on SEL is not negotiable but that you’re open to feedback and suggestions about exactly what happens and how it happens. Change cannot be rushed. Buy-in is like a layaway plan: Ownership comes over time.  “Create an environment conducive to an honest dialogue, even if the feedback is difficult to hear.” When implementing a new system or program at their school, administrators must remember this: Don’t allow yourself to think that your way is the only way. Doubts exist, whether you think they’re justified or not. Open dialogue can be created in feedback forums, board meetings, emails, or a one-on-one with SEL leadership.

‘Help teachers to become more open-minded.’ (Second year, female, co-educational school, Co Waterford)

5. Those who are implementing SEL, or related curriculum changes, see things differently from those who are championing those changes. There are no magic or silver bullets in the change business. Successful change agents understand that they must understand and empathize with the position of their colleagues and act accordingly. One thing to be especially aware of is “change fatigue,” which is common in schools as a reaction when several programs are implemented simultaneously or even one program in a short time period. Even well-intentioned and necessary interventions have to be scaled down when they’re coming into a school, especially a school that has experienced a lot of programming changes and leadership or teacher turnover.

‘Make the teachers be happier in the environment not stressed and sad.’ (Fourth year, female, co-educational school, Co Cork)

6. “Celebrate and recognize any success or accomplishment associated with the change effort, no matter how small,” People want to be part of a winning team. Know that major change and victories are not likely to happen quickly. It’s important for leaders to remember that “real change about real problems and issues is a marathon, not a sprint.” Modelling patience, process, and progress will help foster SEL buy-in, especially in schools that link so much staff morale and worth to standardized test scores.

 ‘Have a proper system for mental health and exam stress... the availability of a designated person to discuss and facilitate issues and discussion.’ (Fifth year, male, co-educational school, Co Leitrim)

7. Don’t shy away from seeing yourself, and your like-minded colleagues, as leaders. Creating buy-in is a leadership activity, even if you’re doing it among your peers. You exercise leadership through your vision, passion, and commitment to students’ social and emotional learning and what it means for their future success in school, college, careers, community, and life. 

I would appreciate if there was one class a day just to take time out and focus on mindfulness and well-being’ (Fourth year, female, girls-only school, Co Cork)

The inserts are taken from the report Minister Katherine Zappone TD and Minister Richard Bruton TD  launched  ‘So, how was school today?’  A ground breaking piece of research carried out by young people for young people.
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Children Grieve Too

children grieve too

It is Children Bereavement Week #childrengrievetoo 

Dear David Coleman: How normal is my daughter's grieving for her puppy?

Q. My daughter is 11 years old. She had a puppy who died recently and it has been really upsetting for her. She is constantly visiting where we buried the puppy, or taking the puppy's teddy and hugging it. She spends a lot of her time remembering happy times she had with the pup.
She talks in her sleep about the pup and wakes two to three times a night with dreams. She has also become very clingy to me lately and is hugging me a lot.
Should I be worried or is this a normal kind of grieving?

David replies: It is easy to underestimate the power of the relationships that any of us can form with our pets. Children, especially, can connect with pets in such an unfiltered way, where their pet returns their love and affection without judgement, that the relationship can be very deep and very meaningful.
It sounds like this may have happened for your daughter and her puppy. She may have been especially attuned to her puppy, forming a deep connection with it.
The fact that the puppy died when it was still young, also suggests that the death was sudden or unexpected. Your daughter sounds like she is experiencing the shock and deep hurt of the loss.
Children (and adults) can grieve their pets' deaths with the same intensity and same power as they may grieve someone close to them who dies. Indeed, many children will experience the death of a pet before the death of a loved person, and this experience of grieving might be a learning experience for them about death, loss and their own coping ability.

The various things that your daughter is doing, like visiting the grave of her puppy, holding on to a favoured item of her puppy (the teddy bear), and relying on you for greater security, do all sound quite normal, especially as the death is relatively recent.If she loved her dog, then she is bound to really miss him. That means she is likely to experience all of the same feelings as humans do in any bereavement. So she may feel shock, anger, deep sadness, guilt, hopelessness and so on.

There is no linear process that we follow in grief. It isn't that we feel a series of feelings in a regimented sequence, rather we can experience any or all of the feelings to a greater or lesser extent and there is no predictable pattern to when we'll feel those feelings. So, too, with your daughter.
Right now, she just sounds very sad and like she is missing the puppy a lot. Perhaps she is also trying to work out how she will fill the gap that its loss has left in her life.

I think that being able to be at the grave, and having the teddy as a transitional object (like a reminder of the puppy's presence), are just part of her particular grieving process. The disturbed sleep is also, I think, just an indicator of how emotionally distressed she is.So, it is good that you are there for her to lean on. It is good that she is turning to you for support, even if that appears clingy. You can't take the pain of the loss away, but you can help to recognise what those feelings are.

At age 11, she might struggle to describe the complexity of her feelings about her puppy and it's death. So, one way to support her, is to try to help her to put words on those feelings, by empathising with how you think she might feel.
This will give her the emotional language to continue to process her feelings and it will also give her a strong sense that you might understand her and how she is feeling. This is a very powerfully supportive thing to be able to offer a child. Even though you can't make the problem go away, it will be clear to her that you are right beside her and attuned to her.

Time and your emotional support are the two things that will help her to adjust to the death of her puppy. You can't rush the time, it will have to go at it's own pace. It is only if she still seems stuck and hasn't moved on from clinging to you and the teddy, as the months pass that would indicate her grieving is especially complicated or problematic. For now, just let her cling and acknowledge just how sad she feels. Nature will help her to find a way through this process in due course.

Link to Article

If you have any parenting queries for David Coleman, please email Please note that David cannot enter into individual correspondence

Fantastic Resources can be found  at:

Supporting parents, guardians and professionals who care for grieving children and young people is kindly supported by

Go Blue for Buddy Bench

We know funding can be an issue for many schools so we have devised this "Go Blue for Buddy Bench" to help raise funds for a Buddy Bench and the Buddy bench Aware programmes. 
What does that mean?
It means that your school wants to become a place where children feel free, strong and comfortable in communicating how they feel to each other. The ask is that your child
Wears something blue on the designated day.

It’s their choice – jeans, jumper, club or county colours; wear a blue scarf, wear a blue bungee in their hair, they could even paint their face blue!

Donates €2
If at all possible from their own money box or does a chore because this is a child led initiative. All money raised goes towards your school’s fund for getting a Buddy Bench and the Buddy Bench Aware Programmes into your school, promoting friendship, kindness and emotional well-being for all.

How does it work?
The Buddy Bench, placed in the school yard or play area, can be used for children when they are new to the school, want to make new friends, their friends are not there on a particular day, they want to play something different from what their friends are playing, or they’re having a problem with their friends and just can’t solve it right now / want to take a break. Sitting on the bench lets everyone know you are feeling lonely, 'different', are being with your emotions and thoughts, and so others are free to check in with you and see if you're ok.

How do we know that children will understand how to use the Buddy Bench?
​We don’t just leave a bench in your school yard and leave it at that. Buddy Bench Ireland will also be delivering the Buddy Bench Program in your school.

Tell me about the Buddy Bench Programme!
As well as the Buddy Bench, we deliver 3 age-appropriate workshops Little Buddies aged 3-6, Buddy Bench Aware aged 6-9 and You Are a Hero for aged 9-12+. Using a combination of story, puppet show, discussions, self-awareness techniques and role-play, our workshops teach children about feelings:

To Read More......

What they are, how they change, how to express themselves, and how to listen to others.

Through supporting core competencies of empathy, creativity, mindfulness and communication, we are empowering a generation of children to create a world where it’s OK – i.e. normal, natural, easy and fun - to express yourself.

Your child will also get a lovely Buddy Bench Activity Book with original illustrations and a comprehensive set of creative activities that teach tools for self-assessment, coping and developing language for feelings.

To download the resources needed

Good Luck and we would love to see all your photos, email them us at there is prize !!!!!

How to Support Schools and Students Dealing with Loss

Buddy Bench Ireland


When there is a death in the school community the impact can be quite significant and every school should think about having a critical incident management plan which will help them take the appropriate steps when a sudden tragedy occurs.

Deaths and other incidents do happen in all communities some having a greater effect in schools. Ideally they should be prepared with a well- developed plan and have a team in place with clearly defined roles.

If a death does occur, schools should often have also consider seeking external support. Thus the need for our "Dealing with Loss" add-on to our programmes which can be tailor made to each school.  Read More

This will vary between schools and there may be clear protocols and policies about the action to take when a death occurs in the school community.

Often both staff and children are  impacted by a death of a community member, parent or pupil and it can help to have somebody with training and some distance who can ‘walk beside’ the staff to plan and implement the response.

Action Plan

Don’t jump to conclusions or react too quickly – take a planned approach (with a team) to gathering and confirming information firstly, work with the family to plan what and how information can be shared.

Staff shouldn’t share information with students in large groups – instead, after permission has been granted, they should consider how to tailor delivery of information.

This might mean sharing of information to individuals or small groups (for those closest to the person who died) as well as in classroom groups.

Supporting the teacher with this task is important.  This enables pupils and staff to take in the information, ask questions and express feelings in a familiar and safe environment.

The response that is best in the period immediately after an incident or death is Psychological First Aid, which recognises that people benefit from some support, information and connection with each other but that most people will recover well from incidents such as a death in the school community.


Grief may be an unavoidable part of life but it can have a huge impact on students as well as their ability to learn – here, one community psychologist offers her advice on helping kids through it.

We know that if a child is experiencing difficulties with emotions their learning will be impacted so school staff are very aware of these links and see their role as being about the whole child – which includes how they are feeling.

In our workshops we are having conversations with children about how they feel. A child who is sad or grieving will hopefully feel comfortable to share that with their teacher.
For those who aren’t able to be so open, there are some common signs to look out for which may indicate a child is struggling – however, she these will vary depending on age, cultural background and personality.
Typical behaviours can include crying, showing signs of anxiety, becoming easily upset, irritable or angry when they usually wouldn’t, being extra clingy to parents/carers or siblings, losing interest in school work or activities, regressing behaviours where the child acts younger than they usually do. As teachers get to know children very well, they will often notice that something the child is doing is out of character for them.
Ways Staff Can Support their Students
  • Noticing that the child is showing some changes or signs that something is wrong if the first step, then “checking in” to open the door to a conversation.
  • Listen when the child wants to talk
  • Protect the child’s privacy by not talking in front of other children
  • Problem solve with the child about what will help at school. For example, a child who is grieving may want to have a picture or photo on their table or have some quiet time to draw or write about their feelings when they’re feeling sad or upset.
  • Be ready to check in with the family and work together.
  • If the child is continuing to be upset over time and efforts to support him or her aren’t making a difference, be mindful of the limits of your role and consider when to talk with parents and the school wellbeing person about a possible referral for specialist support
  • Take care of yourself too – hearing sad stories and seeing a child who is upset can be distressing and sometimes remind staff members of their own losses.
What Not to Do
  • Certainly not to dismiss the signs or hope the child will “get over it” – it’s important that children feel heard and understood.
  • On the other extreme, don’t over-react to a child who is distressed or their behaviours related to distress. Listen to understand what behaviours might mean and problem solve together with the child and family so that they see that feelings are normal and the school will support them.
If your school wishes to avail of our Dealing with Loss programme, email or call us on 056 7702027.