Insta-parenting: Social media pressures on parents to be perfect

Home-Start UK in Northern Ireland reveals local families facing challenges struggle alone for too long, potentially turning a difficult situation into a risky one

  • 60% of parents said they feel pressure from social media to be the ‘perfect parent’
  • 95% of respondents thought fellow parents would delay in asking for help if they were struggling

New research released this October reveals that 6 in 10 parents  feel pressure from social media to be the ‘perfect parent’. Of those polled, 51% said that fears of being seen as a bad parent would hold mums and dads back in asking for help. Home-Start UK in Northern Ireland, the charity behind the poll, are highlighting the unrealistic expectations put on parents by social media, which they have dubbed ‘Insta-parenting’. The charity hopes to encourage an honest discussion about the realities of parenting and expose the unrealistic expectations perpetuated online.

Feelings of failure or struggling to cope with your children is something many people find difficult to be open and honest about. The research shows that 95% of respondents believe parents who are struggling would delay in asking for help. There are 15 local Home-Starts in Northern Ireland and they say that on average parents can struggle for months before reaching out for support.

Working with over 1,200 families locally, the charity’s volunteers see on a daily basis the negative impact of how waiting too long to ask for help can have on parent’s mental health. Local families can feel isolated and, worst of all from the charity’s and respondents’ perspective, it may cause children to miss out (49%).

Alan Hanna, Home-Start UK’s NI Director says: “Parenting has never been easy but with the added pressures of social media, our bad days and difficult times can seem magnified compared with the seemingly perfect families we see online. Home-Start NI offer non-judgemental, compassionate and confidential help and support. We start in the home, with an approach as individual as the 2,800 local children we’ve helped in the last year. A child’s earliest years are irreplaceable, and because childhood can’t wait, we’re there for local parents when they need us most”.

Ildi, a mum of two boys who was supported by Home-Start Craigavon says:
“Over three years our lives changed dramatically. We left friends and successful careers as we wanted to return home and be nearer to Gary’s father who was ill at the time. Within weeks of being back, his dad passed away. The impact of losing someone so close was difficult for our family but within a few weeks our first son, Vincent was born and within a year and a half we were blessed with the birth of our second son, James.”

“Living in a beautiful farm, located on the shores of Lough Neagh, with two children under the age of 3 seems amazing, and it is, but with no family and friends close by and living in a remote area, I felt lonely, scared and stressed. Life was difficult but I kept going because I wanted to be a good mum, but it all came crashing down when I hurt my back one day and collapsed and couldn’t call for help.”

“The stress of everything that had happened impacted on my health so much. Of course, it didn’t help that as I reached out online to find information, all I came across was images and stories of people with perfect lives doing everything correctly. This didn’t provide me with the support or confidence I needed, and I felt it wasn’t accurate and it just added to the stress already present in my life.”

“Fortunately, my previous job as a personal trainer, coaching athletes such as the Irish Olympic Handball team, gave me the skills to know what to do when faced with a challenge and I realised that I needed help. I reached out to Home-Start in June 2018 and since then I’ve never looked back. Home-Start Craigavon’s local volunteer, Reda has been a lifeline to me and my family. She gave me the support and advice I needed on the big and small decisions but most of all she gave me friendship and hope.”

From working with so many local families, Home-Start UK in Northern Ireland’s service of providing compassionate, confidential help and expert support, on a weekly basis, give parents a much-needed break. The charity’s 2019 impact report data shows this unique approach works, with 96% of families helped by Home-Start saying they felt less isolated, 94% reporting improved self-esteem, 94% reporting improved children’s development and 95% saying the same about their own health and wellbeing.

Support Home-Start UK in Northern Ireland’s life changing work by visiting www.home-start.org.uk, or join the conversation online using #reallifeparenting.

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