United Parenting writes Parents are people too!

A Relationship audit

I find it interesting to observe how widely acceptable and necessary it is to spring clean the house, NCT the car or annually audit a business yet few of us would ever prioritise or schedule in an audit of our relationships. Despite being highly publicised that more than half of all couples will separate and that raising teenagers is the hardest job in the world, usually we don’t evaluate our relationships until some kind of crisis forces us to.
As a society we leave ourselves very little time to reflect. We’re very busy doing, but we’re not busy thinking or feeling.
In your fast-paced, multi-tasking, complicated world making some time to gather and express your thoughts can be a really useful way of taking good care of yourself and preventing future breakdowns in your relationships.

Take some space

Talking therapy, or counselling as it’s more often called, offers a safe, non-judgemental place for you to ‘take some space’ or ‘clear your head’ so that you’re more able to ‘think straight’. Just as releasing the lid of a pressure cooker stops it exploding, the counselling room is a place where you can release your inner emotions in a contained way, before you get burnt out by stress.
Whether you’re facing tantrums with toddlers, fussy eaters, children who won’t stay in their own beds, unhappiness at school or the tough teenage years, it’s ok to admit that you need a listening ear and a helping hand sometimes. When you’re living with a situation daily it can become difficult to ‘see the wood for the trees’ in it. Talking with a counsellor can help you to take a step back and see things from a different angle.

It’s good to talk

Between family, friends, reading books, watching Supernanny and surfing the internet the amount of parenting advice available can become overwhelming, conflicting and confusing. It’s good to talk, however, to fully benefit from counselling it is important to shop around and find a professionally trained and experienced therapist.
When you meet a therapist, whether male or female, they should be warm, friendly and someone with whom you feel really comfortable and safe. You will then have the confidence to share honestly your thoughts and feelings about what is going on in your life and in your family. They should reassure you by agreeing in writing the terms of the counselling they offer and that what you say will be held in confidence.
The undivided attention the therapist is able to focus on you during the session, as they listen, understand and value what you say, is a powerful and healing experience. This will enable you to explore some of your fears and anxieties, the ‘what ifs’ in your family situation. As the therapist gently asks you questions like “what do you need?”, “how do you feel about that?”, “what solution makes most sense to you?” or “how would things be different?” options and choices you may not have previously discovered will become apparent. This is called developing self awareness and self understanding. You will start to see more clearly ways in which you might say or do things differently that will help to improve your family situation and your closest relationships.

Invest in yourself, you’re worth it!

If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got.

As with any investment you will get out of it what you put into it. Your children are your ultimate investment and the best way to teach them that the only person you can change is yourself is by example. In much the same way as you strive to teach your children independence, I will offer you practical tips and suggestions that you can try out at home and we will work together with the results in order to find solutions that work for you and your particular family situation.

This is your life, your journey, you are in the driving seat, I will be beside you all the way.


United Parenting shares Conversations with Achievers – Jimmy Sheehan

Padraic O’ Maille interviews Jimmy Sheehan, Founder and CEO of the Galway Clinic.
From as far back as Jimmy can remember he loved working with his hands. “I was always interested in carpentry. I loved taking things apart and putting them back together again. I always liked the concept of manual skills. There was no career guidance then. I had never seen the inside of a hospital. No one in previous generations of my family had done medicine. But from a young age, surgery, and in particular reconstructive surgery appealed to me and I set my mind on it.”

He is far too humble to admit it but his C.V. underscores a brilliant mind evidenced by a myriad of awards, gold medals and first class honours received as an undergraduate. What his C.V. may not reveal was that each summer he would return to his roots in Kerry and work in the local hospital. There he was to meet and befriend the county surgeon, Colm Galvin. “He was the best surgical technician I ever knew and he influenced me profoundly. He encouraged me and inspired me to specialise in ‘carpentry of the skeleton’ and some day I hoped to be able to bring this back to a community in need”.

After graduating from UCD he went to the UK to the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital and later to Wrightington Hospital where he was to meet up with the celebrated Sir John Charnley.
“Sir John designed the first artificial hip joint, the Charnley hip prosthesis and it was first inserted in the early sixties. This procedure is now one of the most common procedures in the world and to be involved in this process was both fascinating and exhilarating. Every artificial joint was actually finished in Sir John’s workshop and we did our apprenticeship on lathes and milling machines. I realised I needed much more in-depth exposure to engineering. I returned to university to study bio-engineering and subsequently went on to do a PhD in mechanical engineering over a seven year period.”

Jimmy was appointed consultant at St. Vincent’s Hospital and shortly thereafter set up the joint replacement unit in Cappagh Hospital. His raison d’être for doing medicine was being realised. He was fulfilling those dreams that Colm Galvin and others had kindled in him formerly of improving the health and quality of life of the individuals and community he served. “You’re too young to remember but right up to this time, the early seventies, there was a huge reservoir of untreated people sitting by firesides all over Ireland. ‘Put Granny sitting by the fire’ was the panacea for treating a plethora of terrible afflictions at that time associated with joint problems. In fact, many of the health problems we encountered then are now thankfully almost obsolete”

Jimmy’s contribution at Cappagh was immense and he is justifiably proud of the fact that it is now the second largest joint replacement unit in Ireland and Britain. Then, as now, the early eighties were characterised by massive cutbacks in the health sector. The Health Board in their wisdom decided to ration the supply of artificial joints from ten a week to just one a week.
“Although I was being paid, I was basically redundant. There was a five year waiting list for joint replacements and I was determined to work and not remain idle. I had a choice of either emigrating or doing something myself. And that was the motivation for the Blackrock Clinic”.
Together with Maurice Nelligan, who also had a five year waiting list for cardiac surgery, George Duffy, a nuclear medical consultant and Jimmy’s brother Joe, they figured that they could free up the system by targeting patients with private insurance who amounted to 30% of the population. Although now an outstanding success it was a baptism of fire for Jimmy then who had precious little business experience.
“We bought the site in the early eighties in the height of the recession. You’ve got to understand that interest rates were running at 23% for that period and I had to put my own home on the line to provide collateral. I have an abiding philosophy however that if you provide excellent patient care the marketing will look after itself and it did just that. I still have borrowings on Blackrock twenty six years later and it is my wish, within my lifetime to clear those debts”.

In 2000 a group of people from the west of Ireland approached Jimmy with a view to opening a clinic in Galway. “It was put to me that the west was very much the poor relation in respect to health services. Cancer services were totally inadequate. There was no radiotherapy and there were massive waiting lists in orthopaedics”. I can assure you that I needed to open another business like a hole in the head but it’s always easier to do nothing and I’ve always been motivated by a challenge. I’ve always been interested in design and functionality and I became very excited about developing a state of the art hospital for Galway. I feel strongly that anyone going to hospital shouldn’t have a lesser service than they have at home”.

Be that as it may, Galway City Council had other views, and refused him planning permission. “I was totally dejected but I walked away with a certain feeling of relief. I had given it my best shot, had invested a lot of my own money and my conscience was clear”. Galway might forever have lost the opportunity to house the Galway Clinic but for the vision and initiative of “four councillors (Declan mc Donnell, Michael Leahy, Fintan Coogan and John Mulholland) who landed up to my door in Blackrock one evening and persuaded me that if I resubmitted they’d see to it that it was passed”.

And so it was. Jimmy’s intention was to run it as a charity but was totally unsuccessful in securing “as much as a euro” from the local community. In the meantime, he had commenced building on the assumption that funds would be forthcoming. When they didn’t, the banks were decisive in calling in his loan, and then, in his early sixties, he was left staring head-on at a twelve million euro debt.
“It was a very ropey time. Everything was on the line. I immersed myself in surgery in an effort to meet the interest repayments but for my poor wife Rosemary, it was a most uncomfortable six months”.
And then, out of the blue, Larry Goodman heard about it and was prepared to broker a deal that enabled the site to re-open and building resume. The results have been outstanding. Now employing 500 people, the services are state-of-the-art boasting radiotherapy, open heart surgery, PET/CT imaging, eye laser therapy and robotic prostate surgery.
The Accident and Emergency Department is now open seven days a week and you are guaranteed to be seen within an hour. Waiting lists for orthopaedic work which once ran to ten years in North Galway are now down to a matter of weeks.

Its success is twofold and should become the blueprint for every organisation in this country. Total focus on patient care and a unique management style.

Jimmy is passionate about patient care. “The only reason we exist is patient care. Medicine is all about human relationships backed up by scientific fact. I regret to say that in medicine we’ve got somewhat oblivious to the needs of the patient and forgotten that the only reason we are there is for them. Patients are great detectives and what they will remember most from a hospital experience is someone with understanding and compassion and who will listen to them. I speak for myself when I say that as a profession we have erred in failing to listen with empathy. We speak jargon. We can be dictatorial and don’t always give patients the time and respect they deserve. Patients often say to me ‘I was with the Doctor and he was very nice to me’. Very often what that means is ‘he wasn’t rude’. People have come to expect low standards from our professionals. Our ethos should be to care. Sickness is a journey and we are terribly privileged in health care to go on that journey with people because we too will someday go on this journey”.

Jimmy retired from surgery in 2003 and says “the day I stopped operating was the day my life became one long holiday. The commitment you give as a surgeon means you never wake up in the morning without anxiety. Business on the other hand is a pure pleasure. We treated twenty thousand people in the Galway Clinic last year and I cannot describe in words to you the satisfaction you get when you see people being cared for”.
He became CEO by default three years ago and his management style is equally hands on. “I have no office in that I believe I should be on the shop floor. I have a superb group of seven executives with whom I meet for ninety minutes each week. It’s an inclusive, interactive meeting focused clearly on problem solving, continuous improvement and innovation. We begin by discussing in detail any complaints received, how we can constructively resolve them and most importantly what we can learn from them”.

“I believe an effective CEO should be almost invisible and should achieve results through the effective motivation of others. I encourage innovation at every level and our staff has contributed hugely to our development and success. We have a “Daft” button on our intranet where staff are encouraged (and rewarded with €50) to come up with ways of improving things in the Clinic. For example we have recently changed the explanation rules for using the lift to make them much more understandable. I had been looking at them for five years and didn’t notice how difficult they were to read. We reduced water charges by e80,000 on foot of a suggestion from a staff member that we sink our own well. Someone else suggested that we install our own electrical generator and this is now saving us e200,000 per annum”.

Jimmy Sheehan
His philosophy on life is simple. “Our role is to do the best we can for as long as we can. I think this concept of people wanting to retire is wrong. If people want to retire they’re obviously unhappy with what they do”.
Mike Shaughnessy arrives to take the photograph. We debate where. Jimmy’s wish is that it be taken in front of the quotation from St. Paul in the main foyer which says.
“Sickness brings patience. Patience brings perseverance. Perseverance brings hope”.
It reinforces his philosophy. While modern medicine owes much to convivial surroundings and state-of-the-art equipment operated by competent technicians, it is still first and foremost about caring for the patient in their journey through sickness. To paraphrase himself, by times he was a Mr. and a Dr. and a Mr. He was at all times however, a carpenter. He brought things to life with his mind and his hands. The Galway Clinic, and the thousands of people who have been cared for there, is a tribute to his patience and perseverance and has provided great hope.


United Parenting shares Ten tips to boost your child’s self-esteem by Dave Coleman

If you want to give your child the best possible opportunities in life, helping them to have high self-esteem is a great starting point. Children will make mistakes. We can choose to punish them, or we can let them learn from their choices. Self-esteem can seem a bit intangible. We can’t really see it, hold on to it, or touch it in any way. Despite this, we are often acutely aware when it is missing, especially in our children. They can seem to have a very negative opinion of themselves, or they seem unconfident, overly dependent, or conformist. In contrast, children who have high self-esteem are more emotionally mature, more stable, more realistic and they have a higher frustration tolerance. They also tend to be happier and to do better academically.

So if you want to give your child the best possible opportunities in life, then helping them to have high self-esteem is a great starting point. To help you along that road, here are my top 10 tips for building your child’s self-esteem.

1. Remember what you are role-modelling

Children watch us all the time. They take their lead from how we act in the world. It is our actions that give them the strongest guide for their own behaviour. If you find that you are self-deprecating, be aware that your children may learn to do the same. Similarly, if you find that you always say “yes” to things because you don’t want to offend others by saying “no”, you may be giving your children a message that other people’s needs are more important. Even our own expectations of ourselves can be unreasonable, leaving us feeling like we are constantly failing.

2. Give individual attention to your children

I know how busy family life can get. Nevertheless, children will always benefit from a bit of special time with their parent(s). When children feel their parents notice them, it really helps children to develop the self-belief that they are indeed important individually. The individual attention may be just a quick story before bed, or a weekly treat time with one child, or even taking the time to comment specifically to one child about something good and positive they did.

3. Accept your child for who they are

We all have our strengths and our weaknesses. There is no perfect parent and no perfect child. But children need to know that, even when they mess up, they are still loved and cared about. When children make individual choices they need to know that, whatever the outcome, we will not reject or dismiss them.
Often in our approaches to discipline, we can unintentionally make our love seem conditional. Our children may come to believe they are only acceptable to us when they behave in certain ways.

4. Communicate with respect

Our typical response to children’s mistakes is to criticise them and their behaviour. We can easily give children a message of both our disappointment in them and our dismissal of them. We always want our children to be respectful, but we need to think about how respectful we are to them. Think about how many times a day you may say “I don’t care” to your child, in response to their moans, whinges, and demands. We intend to communicate that even though we hear what they want, they can’t have it. However, when we add the “I don’t care,” children can come to believe that we actually don’t care about them.

5. Help children to recognise and understand their feelings

Being a child can be a frustrating experience. When we forget that the demands and restrictions we impose on them trigger feelings in our children, we can easily become angry, dismissive, and critical at their apparent opposition to us. What children learn from this is that their feelings don’t seem to matter to us. So, rather than simply railroading children, we can be empathetic, while still remaining firm about what has to be done. That way, children continue to know that we do understand and care about them, even when we have to go against their desires.
6. Identify their strengths and abilities

Often children focus more on the things they can’t do, than the things they can. In group situations, children will often compare themselves negatively with their peers. Acknowledging what we are good at seems to go a bit against the Irish psyche. However, knowing what we are good at, and what we do well, is at the centre of feeling capable within ourselves. If ever you feel pride in your child’s achievements, it is helpful to encourage them to feel proud of themselves.

7. Treat mistakes as learning opportunities

Making mistakes is part of what makes us human. Almost all of the really significant advancements in science, technology, and medicine are based on experiments involving trial and error. Children will make mistakes. We can choose to punish them for those mistakes, possibly leaving them feeling bad, demotivated, or resentful, or we can let them experience the consequences of their choices, and then encourage them to have another go with the new knowledge they now have.

8. Allow children to make choices and decisions

It naturally follows, therefore, that we have to let children make those choices in the first place if they are to really benefit from the opportunities to learn. It is very tempting to keep ‘bubble-wrapping’ our children to protect them from possible harm or danger. However, if we continue to over-protect them, we will only teach them to be dependent on us. Similarly, if we don’t give children the chance to solve some of the problems they face, then they may come to believe they are helpless and incapable.

9. Encourage effort and acknowledge success

“It’s not the winning that’s important, it’s the taking part that counts.” In terms of building self-esteem there is a lot of truth in this. However, there is lots of research to suggest that competitive sport for under-12s is counter-productive, as children can end up too disappointed and disheartened if they constantly perceive themselves to be failing. It is great for any of us to feel the thrill and achievement of reaching the top or achieving a goal. It is important, too, for children to learn to cope with disappointment, and sometimes sports can be a good and safe opportunity to do so. However, at heart, if children are to feel good about what they are doing, they need to know the effort they are putting in is valuable, even if it doesn’t get them the prize.

10. Allow children an opportunity to contribute

It is important that children get opp-ortunities to do things that are genuinely useful and appreciated. Household chores are a great way to give children responsibility. It gives parents the chance to say “thanks” or “well done”. Children like to feel helpful and useful. We have to let children have a go at being responsible. For sure they’ll mess it up sometimes, but that is just an opportunity to show them how to do it differently next time.