A little about what we do
For over 40 years Parentline has provided a completely confidential helpline for parents and guardians supporting over 150,000 callers in that time.
Parents phone Parentline with all sorts of problems. There is no typical call. Calls come from parents of new born babies, toddlers, pre-teens, teenagers and adult children. All ages offer different challenges.
We offer support, guidance and information on all aspects of being a parent and the reassurance that, whatever the problem, you’re not the first parent to face it. Sometimes, all you could need is a listening ear.
All Parentline facilitators receive extensive training before going on the lines. They are non-judgemental and have a broad knowledge and understanding of the wide range of problems parents encounter. They will listen and guide parents to help them find the answers they seek.
Parentline facilitators are real people who understand that sometimes the best help can be simply listening with understanding, compassion and care.
Who Calls Parentline
Anybody who has a parenting issues: – parents, grandparents, guardians minders, concerned friends and siblings, health workers and doctors. Our callers are from all walks of life, all points on the social spectrum and from all types of family formations.
Parentline takes approx 6,000 + calls a year from people who need to talk to someone about the difficulties they are experiencing.
Fathers Calling Parentline
When Parentline was first set up almost 100% of the calls came from mothers. In the first year of operation Parentline received one call from a father. In the intervening years the number of fathers calling the helpline is increasing all the time. Calls from fathers now represent approx. 20% of calls.
The content of calls from fathers has also changed. 20 years ago fathers used to ask ‘how they could support their wife with her parenting.’ The calls from fathers now show they are playing a much more active role in parenting and there is no difference between the parenting issues raised by men and women.
The History of Parentline
Parentline, formerly known as Parents Under Stress, was founded in January 1982 by group of social workers and nurses including Sylda Langford, Mary O’Sullivan, Olga Garland, Sheila Scannell and Margaret Beaumont. Their remit was to form a confidential, non-judgmental support service for parents.
Ireland, at that time, was undergoing major social and economic changes, including the rapid suburbanisation and development of its cities and towns and it was felt that many new parents, and new mothers in particular, living in these newly developed residential areas were often isolated from their informal support networks including their families of origin and their own parents, siblings and childhood friends.
Therefore, the founding members of Parents Under Stress established parent support groups that met once a week so that mothers of infants and young children could give each other support and watch out for each other. At that time the emphasis was on new mothers with young babies who were looking for support and guidance.
Parents Under Stress was initially run from a location on Marlborough Street in Dublin before a decision was taken to move to telephone based helpline. Volunteers were trained to support callers by active listening, talking through the problem and identifying the issue with which the caller was having difficulty. Volunteers were trained to signpost other organisations and to suggest resources that might help.
Volunteers were trained to support parents with information and guidance on all parenting issues with the emphasis being on confidentiality and non-judgemental listenership. The volunteers began taking calls in April 1983. This is viewed as the official start date of the Parents Under Stress/Parentline as it was when the organisation started officially enrolling and training volunteers and taking calls.
During the 1980s the Parents Under Stress telephone helpline service was being run from a room on the attic floor of a premises on Cathedral Street in Central Dublin which was owned by a religious organisation. Social workers used the facility during the daytime and in the evenings the helpline service was run and staffed by volunteers.
In April 1990, the Parents Under Stress (PUS) helpline service relocated to the newly established Carmichael Centre, an umbrella resource centre within which a growing number of charities and support groups operated. PUS was the first organisation to move into the Carmichael Centre building. The new facility enabled the telephone helpline service to expand its operations with the establishment of a full daily service on weekdays and an increased number of volunteers operating the helpline.
As the service expanded, the issues that the volunteers dealt with moved beyond that of young mothers and their small children/infants with increasing numbers of callers to the helpline looking for guidance and support with respect to difficulties and concerns associated with older children and teenagers. Therefore, the remit of the helpline operated by Parents Under Stress expanded to encompass wider concerns and young adult children.
In 1993 Parents Under Stress was renamed Parentline. This was to mark the 10th anniversary of the helpline and it was celebrated with a major fundraiser along with the name change. It was felt that the organisation needed to incorporate the broader needs of parents and the new name of the organisation reflected the wider issues of parenting in general.
Parentline also officially took over the calls being taken by the Post Natal Depression support group, which had disbanded due to a lack of resources. The amalgamation was officially launched by Minister Mary O Rourke.
In 2001 Rita O’Reilly was employed as Parentline administrator with her title subsequently changing to CEO in 2011. Rita remained at the helm of Parentline for the next 8 years until late 2019, giving a total of 18 years to the service of Parentline.
A Board of Directors was established in 1994 to direct and drive the organisation forwards and to meet on a regular basis to monitor the operation of the helpline service, identify emerging issues and trends, and to provide a framework within which the Parentline service operated. The board members are nominated and elected by the members or can be co-opted to the board. The Parentline Board was chaired by many wonderful volunteers over the years. These included Sheila Scannell, Alicia Carrigy, Valerie McLoughlin, Margaret O’Rorke, Margaret Lamont, Gerry Emmerson, Maura Hughes (deceased), Davidine Grimes, Cora McEntee, Rita Lambert, Venetia Hamilton, Helen Purser, Geraldine Parker, Priscilla Conway, Nora Tuite and Deirdre Curtin. The current Chair is Mags Goddard.
Parentline celebrated its 21st birthday in The Bank of Ireland Arts Centre on the 10th of May 2001. Speakers at the event included John Lonergan, former Governor of Mountjoy Prison, Anne Marie McMahon, Psychologist and Sheila Wayman of the Irish Times.
Over the years, Parentline has organised a series of fundraising activities to provide funding to enable the service to continue. In the initial years of operation, donations from the public to Parentline were the sole source of funding. However, the Eastern Health Board began providing funding in the mid-1990s. Today Parentline is primarily funded by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.
The fundraising events - known as “flag days” - and activities over the years have included fashion shows, sporting events, golf classics, art sales, coffee mornings, table quizzes and collections in public areas such as shopping centres and commercial districts in the city and town centres throughout Ireland. These fundraising events have been devised and organised by the volunteers themselves and the range of events is a testament to their dedication to the Parentline service. Fundraising events continue to be an important source of funding for the service.
Currently, the Parentline service is run by Aileen Hickie who was appointed as CEO in January 2020. She is supported by the Board of Directors, Chaired by Mags Goddard.
The organisation is guided by a Strategic Plan which is devised on a five-year basis and is regularly reviewed by a sub-committee comprised of Board members.
The challenges facing Parentline during 2020 were immense. The Covid-19 pandemic meant additional call volumes and this combined with the associated difficulties of remote working where the helpline volunteers operated the service from their own homes.
There was a sharp and marked increase in the number of calls to the helpline. Parents faced new difficulties associated with the Covid-19 pandemic, working from home and schools being closed in addition to the longstanding issues of concern.
After almost 40 years of operation, Parentline continues to provide an excellent helpline service to parents throughout Ireland who seek to avail of support, guidance from empathetic and understanding volunteer.
None of this would be possible without the dedication and commitment of our wonderful team of volunteers who work so very hard to ensure that parents in Ireland have a support service to turn to in times of need.
Although the issues and challenges facing parents over the past 40 years may have evolved and changed in line with the sweeping social and economic changes Ireland has experienced, one thing that has not changed is the willingness of Parentline’s team of volunteers in providing help and support to those who avail of our service.
Our volunteers have been the lifeblood of Parentline since its foundation and we look forward to another 40 years of the service - and meeting the challenges and the needs of parents in Ireland in the years to come.
Testimonial from Anonymous Parent
I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to your service and amazing team. I began using your service when my children were aged around 6 and 8 years old and I still avail of the service now that they are young adults of 22 and 24 years old. Having been a single mum throughout and navigating the stresses this role entailed, it has been so invaluable having the understanding, insights and supports of the Parentline volunteers, who not only understood my situation but helped me to move through it. Even now, as I navigate the next phase of their lives into adulthood, I still find the same supports available to me and the same level of understanding. I want to commend you for all of your work and thank you for helping me on my journey of parenting.
I spoke to a lovely lady on Thurs afternoon this week about my teenage son and the trouble he'd constantly got himself into which culminated in us asking him to leave the family home this week. Not an easy time for us but I felt so much better after talking to Parentline (wish i'd got the lady's name). I was at my wits end & couldn't get hold of any of my usual 'supports' so on spur of moment rang u. Very glad I did, this lady spoke to me and listened for nearly an hour, was very understanding, supportive and non judgemental, Thank you Parentline, our problems haven't gone away and I'm sure the rollercoaster is not going to stop anytime soon but you have really helped me this week.
We have been working with ‘Parentline’ for the past 5 years and have found it to be a great organisation for our members to tap into. Sometimes our parents feel there is no one there for them as they focus on their children with Dyspraxia. The lifeline for them is for us to transfer them through to the ‘Parentline ’Helpline for support , guidance and to have the ear of experienced volunteers at the other end .Most of our parents do not have the financial means to even consider intervention for themselves. Being able to offer them the services of Parentline at no cost is greatly appreciated by Dyspraxia/ DCD Ireland and our parents. Established in 1995 by parents of children with Dyspraxia/DCD, we are active in the following areas: Supporting regional support groups throughout the country. Promoting awareness of Dyspraxia/DCD in Ireland in order to create a better understanding of the challenges children and parents face. Supporting parents, individuals, families, teens, adults and children affected by Dyspraxia/DCD
Being a parent is the most wonderful and important thing the majority of the time. But it can also be the most challenging. The unconditional love we feel for our children mean any problems they are having, particularly with us, tend to be magnified. At these times, parenting can be a particularly solitary and isolated occupation. Often we can use other family members as sounding boards. But for a variety of reasons, there are times when parents don’t feel comfortable revealing issues to others close to them. It can be easier talking things through over the phone with somebody who you have never met before and will never meet. That is where we believe Parentline comes in. Our volunteers, who are trained in listening and counselling skills, are there to offer support, guidance and information on all aspects of being a parent. They do this in a completely non-judgmental manner and no time limit is placed on calls with a typical call duration of 50 minutes. There is no problem too big or too small and no typical call or caller and our service is entirely confidential. Most of all Parentline is there to listen and guide parents to help them to find the answers they seek. Parentline is open from 10am until 9pm Monday-Thursday and 10am to 4pm Friday with an out of hours answering service.
In the early hours of the morning I was sitting up in bed, with my beautiful 3 month old baby girl wide awake in my arms, yet again neither of us having slept a wink. I had the radio on low in the background when I heard the advertisement for Parentline. I had never heard of this group before and the advertisement registered with me big time. My tiny baby girl had been born 2 months premature after a traumatic pregnancy and she wasn’t sleeping for more than 2 hours at a time and I was so worried about her. She was gaining weight, albeit slowly but was doing fine, however I was always anxious about her. I couldn’t understand this as she was my second child and I had no problem coping with my first baby, a gorgeous boy, who wasn’t a great sleeper either. This anxiety was almost paralysing, so much so that when my baby fell asleep I was checking endlessly to see if she was still breathing. I was struggling to cope and the sleep deprivation wasn’t helping. Despite having a very supportive husband, even on the nights that he took over, I couldn’t sleep. I would lie awake worrying. Due to our work commitments, we had to settle down many miles from our extended families which meant we were very much on our own. Strange thing is that even if there was “hands on” support available, I wouldn’t have admitted that I was struggling and needed help. I wasn’t trying to be Super Mum, but surely I could manage two babies without help. I always pretended that I was managing fine. Sometimes I even got defensive as to why things wouldn’t be fine. Didn't I have two healthy babies, a loving husband and a nice home? However underneath it all, it was a huge struggle for me. My emotions and feelings were all over the place and I always arrived at the same conclusion that I was not up to the job of being a mother. A few days after I had heard the Parentline advert, having done much soul searching as it’s not easy to confide in a stranger, I decided to ring Parentline. After a shaky start, lots of hesitating, I poured out my story, the volunteer listened to me, reassured me, listened some more and directed me towards help. I felt so much better after the call, reassured that I was fit for the job of being a mother and that I could get help. Literally, I felt as if a load had been lifted off my shoulders. I was delighted that I had called Parentline. I was so impressed with Parentline, the level of professionalism, competence, knowledge and genuine caring of the volunteers that I joined and trained as a volunteer the following year. I have been a volunteer with Parentline since. That “baby girl” is now 28!
Every parent is an expert on their own child, but sometimes we need someone to help us make sense of our gut feelings. With the national, confidential service offered by Parentline, you know trained and experienced volunteers will help you figure out what's right for you and your family, rather than offering solutions that sell a brand of expertise or justify a fee.
Parentline is a great support for parents across the country. It is there for parents of children of all ages. There is no “typical” call to Parentline. The trained volunteers have experience helping parents dealing with a wide range of challenges. Some problems faced by parents can be difficult to share with other family and friends and it can be hard to know what help is available. Parentline offers confidential support to help parents to figure out the best way forward.
Parentline's volunteers are at its core. The wealth of experience, the kindness and the loyalty of this group of people is amazing. Parentline is over 30 years old, during which time it has gone from strength to strength, consistently providing a service which is invaluable to Irish families nationwide. It continues to listen and support parents in distress. My involvement in Parentline started fourteen years ago when, after extensive training, I became a volunteer on the helpline. I am still working the lines today. It is a privilege now to be the Chair of Parentline. I was appointed in June 2019 and I follow in the footsteps of many other great supporters of this wonderful charity. Parentline is based at Carmichael House in Dublin along with many other organisations in the non-profit community. The helpline room, where the volunteers take calls, is the heart of the organization. The team is led by CEO Aileen Hickie. There is always a sense of calm and congeniality in the helpline room and many life-long friendships have resulted from time spent there. While our volunteers are the core of Parentline, our callers are the reason we exist. Parentline ensures that there is ongoing training to help deal with the many issues that arise and the changing nature of the calls. Technology has changed how bullying takes place. Financial constraints can mean older children still live at home or return to the family home. Becoming a parent later in life can cause isolation and loneliness. Access arrangements after separation and divorce can be tricky to negotiate. Blended families are an increasing phenomenon. Gaming amongst the teenage community can present problems. There is a plethora of reasons why parents call us and we endeavour to help by listening, validating their concerns, providing information if it's appropriate and giving them the time to tell their story. We provide a confidential service and we do not judge; this means our callers trust us with their very private concerns.