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Family issues


Family / Wha¯nau issues

Single Parenting

If you are a single parent raising children on your own can bring many pleasures and rewards. It will also be very busy and maybe difficult at times. Some ways that may help you cope with parenting are:

• Accepting offers of help from trusted friends and family/wha¯nau.

• Having a regular time when someone else cares for your child, to give you a chance to do something for yourself.

• If you have trusted friends with children, you may like to take turns caring for each other’s children. This gives you both time out.

• Meeting other parents in support or play groups. Talk to Plunket staff or another Well Child Provider about what is available in your area. Some areas also have groups for single parents.

• If your child’s father is not able to be around, a grandfather, uncle or close friend can be a male role model and give your child special attention.

Changing Relationships

Separating from your partner

Separating from your partner and starting a new relationship can change children’s behaviour.

• If you have separated from your partner, you may find your child’s behaviour changes. He may become withdrawn, clingy, have problems sleeping, and return to old behaviours (e.g. wetting his pants), or he may feel afraid, confused and angry.

• Talk with him about how he is feeling, and explain what is happening in a simple, easily understood way and answer any questions he may have. It may help if you and your ex-partner both talk to your child about the separation. Tell him it is not his fault, and that you both still love him.

• It is best to avoid arguing with your expartner in front of your child or saying nasty things about your ex-partner to him. Seeing/hearing their parents argue can make children upset and unhappy.

• This can be a difficult and stressful time for you. You may find it hard to cope at times and be less tolerant of your child’s behaviour. While this is normal for people under stress, it’s helpful to think about things from the child’s perspective, too.

New Relationships

• If you are in a new relationship, your child may have behaviour changes. Giving your child time to talk about his feelings, special time together and keeping to your normal routine as much as possible may help. Talk to your new partner about their views on parenting and managing behaviour problems. It may help to let your child and new partner get to know each other gradually and not involve your new partner in managing any discipline of your child.

First, they need to establish their new relationship and develop trust.


Protecting Yourself and Your Family/Wha¯nau

Family Violence

Family violence affects many children and women in New Zealand. Family violence is about a person wanting to dominate and control their wha¯ nau/family members. It’s illegal and it’s not OK. There are no excuses for violent behaviour. People make a choice to be violent and can make the choice to stop.

Does your partner or someone in your wha¯nau/family:

• threaten to hurt you, the children, themselves or your pets?

• threaten to take the children away, or report you?

• stop you seeing your wha¯nau/family and friends?

• get jealous or angry easily?

• stop you having any money or work outside the home?

• call you names, constantly criticise, or put you down?

• do things that scare you like displaying weapons or driving fast?

• control what you do and check up on where you go or repeatedly email/call/txt you?

• force you to have sex or do degrading things?

• hit, choke, push, slap, burn, kick you or throw things?

(See the note at the end of this section if you recognize that you do some of these things to your partner or children.)

Family Violence:

• can involve psychological, emotional, financial, physical and/or sexual abuse.

• usually increases and gets more severe over time, unless something is done to make the abusive person take

responsibility and change their behaviour.

• can have many serious effects, for example:

- feeling confused/depressed/ frustrated/anxious/alone

- feeling tired from trying to keep the peace

- physical injuries; some partners are killed through the violence

- eating, sleeping, health problems

- worrying that the violence stops you being the parent you want to be

- feeling fearful for own or children’s lives

- feeling suicidal, have problems with drug and alcohol abuse

Psychological or emotional abuse is the most common form of family violence and the person being abused often says it’s the worst. Family violence often does not involve physical or sexual violence. Children whose parent is being abused have a high risk of being abused themselves. Even if the abuser does not direct violence towards the children, they are often seriously affected by seeing or hearing their parent being abused. They will pick up on tension, stress, and fear, even if they don’t understand what is going on.

Violence seriously affects children. They may:

• feel afraid for themselves or their family members

• blame themselves for what is happening

• have behaviour problems (be naughty, hard to cope with)

• get sick a lot

• have problems with bedwetting, speech, eating, and sleeping

• have low self-esteem

• be clingy or sad

• be aggressive, violent, or bully others

• have problems making friends and trusting people

• act younger than they are

• try to be very good so they do not ‘cause’ more violence

• become withdrawn or depressed

• use alcohol and drugs

• become violent and abusive as an adult or become involved with an abusive partner as an adult

Children have the right to be safe and be cared for. Children who live with family violence need to:

• know violence is not okay

• know it is not their fault

• talk about their feelings and worries

• be told and shown they are loved

Many partners and children living in constant fear of violence, often are afraid that no one will believe their story and things will be worse for them if they tell. They may be ashamed, worried about being blamed for the violence, or told that they deserve it. Family violence can be hidden for a long time because it happens when other people aren’t there. People who are violent to their wha¯nau/families can be friendly and kind to other people. It can take several attempts to leave a violent partner before you are successful so don’t stop trying.

Your Rights

Everyone has the right to feel safe in their relationships. Violent people need to take responsibility for their actions and learn different ways to act. If your partner is abusive, it is not your fault. Most people who are being hurt want the violence to stop, but don’t know what to do.-- You are not alone. Help and support is available. Kia kaha. Korero mai.

The law provides protection through legal orders (e.g. a Protection Order) that:

• say a person cannot physically, sexually or psychologically abuse you.

• allow you to stay in the house you rent or own, and/or use the furniture.

What can you do?

If you are living in fear, it is important to think how you can keep yourself and your children safe.

Phone the Police. If you or your children are in danger, call the police on 111. Police family violence policy requires police to treat family violence, and breaches of Protection Orders, as a serious crime. You have the right to report every act of violence to the Police, even a long time after the event.

Ask for help. Talk to a doctor, Women’s Refuge, or someone you can trust.

Contact Women’s Refuge. Women’s Refuge staff can listen and provide practical support. They also provide a 24

hour phone line, help in the community, home visits, emergency safe house, accommodation, legal information, and

support when dealing with Police, lawyers, Courts, Work and Income, doctors etc. They will support you whether you stay in the safe house, in your own home, with friends, or with wha¯nau/family.

Make a safety plan which includes the phone numbers of people you can trust, a way for you and your children to get out safely, a place to go, and a plan of how to get there (talk to a Refuge advocate; or go to www.womensrefuge.org.nz)

Keep a diary of events and see a doctor to have physical and mental injuries recorded.

Attend an education and support group. There are free “living free from violence” groups for women and children

nationwide. Keeping yourself and your children safe is important. Plunket staff are concerned about the health and wellbeing of children and families and provide assistance, support and information for any parent who feels afraid

or is in a violent relationship. If you have any concerns please talk to your midwife, a Plunket staff member, other Well Child Health Provider, your doctor, or local Women’s Refuge listed in the-white pages of the phone book under “W” or at www.womensrefuge. org.nz and personal emergencies in the front of the phone book.

If you recognise some of the behaviours  in yourself it is important to contact someone such as your local Stopping Violence programme. Details can be found through contacting the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

If you are concerned about a child in your family or a friend’s child

If you are concerned that a child you know is being hurt or neglected, you need to tell someone about your concerns. The abuse could be physical, emotional, sexual, verbal, or not having their needs met. If a child tells you they have been hurt, it is important to believe the child and get help for them. A child who is being abused cannot always tell you - especially young children, but you may be concerned by changes in behaviour or physical signs of violence. Your friends or family members may need your support or practical help. Talk to them about how you can help.

See the booklet ‘Everyday Families’ by Child, Youth and Family for useful information on parenting, support services, and recognizing abuse and neglect. This booklet is included in your Bounty pack. Copies in Maori, Samoan, Tongan and English are available from Plunket staff or Child, Youth and Family offices. Or visit www.cyf.govt.nz

Returning to Paid Work

If you are returning to work, it may help to consider:

• the options for childcare available, e.g. care in your home or someone else’s home, childcare centres, Te Ko¯hanga Reo, Pacific nations language groups, early childhood education services (see below for ideas on choosing the best service for you and your child).

• Depending on your income, you may be able to apply for a childcare subsidy from Work and Income New Zealand phone 0800 227 773.

• planning time to settle your child at childcare before starting work. Some children settle quickly; others need their

parent with them for several visits.

• having a plan if your child or caregiver is sick

• finding out your workplace’s policy on sick leave, time off for visits to your doctor, Plunket or Well Child Health Provider

• planning to have some time for yourself

• planning special fun time with your child

• how you plan to manage housework and other commitments. Try not to expect too much of yourself; sharing the work with others may help.

Choosing an Early Childhood Education Service or Childcare

When choosing a preschool or childcare service discussing the following with the staff/caregiver may help you decide which one will be best for you and your child:

• The number of children cared for by each adult. If more than one adult, do the children have one caregiver responsible for them.

• The number of children and their age ranges.

• The training of the staff or caregiver.

• If the staff change a lot and who will cover if the caregiver/staff are sick?

• If there is a waiting list?

• Cost. Do you have to pay if your child is sick or away?

• Hours your child will attend.

• Do you need to bring food for your child, or is it provided?

• Are there routines for sleep/rest times?

• What activities are offered? How is their day planned? Their education programme? Their cultural programme?

• Their policy on toilet training?

• How the centre/caregiver deals with behaviour problems?

• How the centre/caregiver would deal with first aid, and safety problems?

• Who can collect your child?

• How the staff can contact you if necessary and what things you may want to be contacted about?

• The centre’s/caregiver’s policy on outings and transport (e.g. car seats, number of adults to children)?

• If your child is sick, how long she needs to be at home before returning to care?

• How you will get feedback about your child?

It may help to:

• visit a few different centres or caregivers

• watch how the staff/caregiver relate to your child, yourself and other children in their care. Are you and your child made to feel welcome? Are the staff talking with and helping the children learn?

• talk to other parents who have used the centre or caregiver

• read the Education Review Office report on the centre, charter, curriculum, child abuse policy and how complaints are handled, if it’s a preschool centre

• check if it looks safe and clean

• discuss any diet or medical needs of your child with the staff/caregiver.


There may be times when you leave your baby/children with a babysitter. The legal age for a child to be left alone is 14 years, otherwise your children need to be in the care of a trusted person over 14 years. Some suggestions you may find helpful are:

• Choose a sitter you can trust and who is able to cope with any problems that may occur. This will depend on their

experience, the length of time you need them, the age and needs of your child.

• If you do not know the sitter well, ask him/ her if you can talk to some other parents of children they have cared for.

• It’s helpful if the sitter and your child have a chance to get to know one another before being left alone.

• For the sitter’s safety, talk about how she/he plans to travel to and from your home.

• The sitter will need to know what you expect of them. They also need to know:

– where to find things they may need, (e.g. nappies, clothes, food)

– any special needs for your baby/ child

– how often to check the baby/child

– what to do if the baby cries or vomits

– how to contact you or another adult in case they cannot contact you (e.g. when you are travelling to and from the venue)

– emergency procedures, e.g. phone, first aid, torch, where to get help (e.g. phone 111)

– safety issues, (e.g. not opening the door to strangers)

– which neighbours could be helpful

– not to invite friends over while you are out.

Community Organisations/Support Groups

USEFUL CONTACTS DIRECTORY IN EMERGENCY: DIAL 111 for POLICE, FIRE, AMBULANCE ALLERGY NEW ZEALAND for information on allergies ph 0800 34 0800 www.allergy.org.nz

THE ASTHMA SOCIETY provides information and support for people with asthma and their families. Check your local phone book for contact details

BARNARDOS ph 0800 227 961 www.barnardos.org.nz

BIRTHS, DEATHS & MARRIAGES ph 0800 225 252

BREASTFEEDING: LA LECHE LEAGUE for breastfeeding information and support see the white pages in your phone book or www.lalecheleague.org/LLLNZ


PLUNKETLINE ph 0800 933 922

BUDGET ADVICE SERVICES see local directory.

CHILD, YOUTH & FAMILY for parenting information: www.cyf.govt.nz for reporting abuse or neglect: ph 0508 FAMILY (0508 326 459)

CITIZENS ADVICE BUREAU provides information on community services, legal advice and budgeting Ph 0800 FOR CAB 0800 367 222



COT DEATH (SIDS) parent to parent support and information - 24 HRS - ph 0800 164 455

EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT www.ecd.govt.co.nz For information on local preschool services e.g. crèches, Play centre, kindergartens, Te Kohunga Reo, Pacific language nests, Montessori, correspondence school and play groups talk to Plunket staff, other Well Child Health Providers or look in your local phone book.

EMPLOYMENT RELATIONS information line ph 0800 800 863 www.ers.dol.govt.nz

FAMILY PLANNING ASSOCIATION for contraceptive advice, pregnancy testing or advice on sexual problems ph 0800 FPA LINE/ 0800 372 546

FAMILY AND COMMUNITY SERVICES part of the Ministry of Social Development, has a website offering support for families, a directory of services, and the SKIP webpage (SKIP is Strategies with Kids - Information for Parents) www.familyservices.govt.nz

HEALTH & DISABILITY COMMISSIONER ph 0800 11 22 33 www.hdc.org.nz

IMMUNISATION ADVISORY CENTRE (IMAC) for information on all aspects of immunization ph 0800 IMMUNE / 0800 466 863 www.immune.org.nz

IHC INC. Ph 0800 (IHCIHC) 0800 442 442 www.ihc.org.nz

IRD for information on family assistance ph 0800 227 773 www.ird.govt.nz