Tuesday 25 June 2019

'The whole world of make-believe for kids seems to be gone' - Clare Garrihy on how today's kids are missing out

Aoibhin Garrihy, with her mother Clare, and sisters Doireann and Ailbhe.
Aoibhin Garrihy, with her mother Clare, and sisters Doireann and Ailbhe.
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

Irish actress Aoihín Garrihy and her broadcaster sister Doireann grew up in a household, they say, where communication was key.

Aoibhin, a former Fair City actress and Dancing With the Stars contestant, and Doireann, a popular radio presenter and comedian, are regulars on the Irish airwaves.

As children, they made their own shows and held dancing competitions between themselves and friends. Drama was a natural part of their home.

Today their mother Clare joined them to promote the VHI Women’s Mini Marathon which takes place on Sunday, June 3, at 2pm. The trio, big wellness advocates, chat happily about their family values and how they've always been very close.

Clare tells Independent.ie: “I was lucky as well in that I was married at 23, I had Aoibhinn at 25, Ailbhe at 27, and Doireann at 29. I grew up with them.”

“The family time was always very special as well. We spent a lot of time down in the west of Ireland. And we had that great balance of the country and the outdoors, and they loved getting out on bicycles on the Aran Islands, walks, and swimming, and jumping off the pier in Inis Oirr.”

“I don’t claim to be an expert, and I’m not, and they (my children) didn’t come with a manual, but what I found was you don’t try and force. You don't say ‘oh how did you get on in school today, and who said what, and what did the teacher say when you gave up that?’, you know.”

“I always found, just sit… just give them the time, give them the space. Sit on the bed when they’re in bed, have the craic and whatever, and it’ll come, and they’ll tell you [their problems].”

Communication and lots of praise were key, Clare explains, and every achievement, no matter how small, was celebrated.

“The other thing is, above all else, praise. Mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí (Praise the youth and she will come).”

“We celebrated everything... The first time [Aoibhín] went across the pool... we got the cert and plastered it up across the wall. Our walls were plastered [with achievements].”

“We just praised. If it was 10 out of 10 in the spelling test on a Friday, ‘wow you are the best ever’, if it was 9 out of 10, 8 out of 10. We still celebrated it.”

“And the other thing I think that worked for us as well was the incentive scheme: ‘now if you do this, we’ll go to the zoo on Friday or Saturday, or we’ll go to McDonald’s. Help us pick all the leaves off the front and we’ll all go to McDonald’s’.”

“And kids thrive on that type of thing. So communication, praise, and you’ll know yourself if there’s something bothering them. ‘Sure tell me, sure I’ll worry about it then’. You know that sort of thing.”

“A problem shared is a problem halved, and we’re still the same, and if there’s something bothering Doireann she’ll ring up and say, I’m calling over, and I’d say yeah, call over, come on Doireann and we’ll have the craic.”

The mum-of-three, who works in tourism in Clare, says she fears for small children in Ireland today who are constantly plugged into tech devices.

“What I worry about is the whole world of make-believe for children seems to have gone by the way side. These would be making their own shows. Friends would come in, they’d have dancing competitions, Ailbhe would be writing out the tickets.”

“You see these Irish families… and they have six year-olds in buggies and they have headphones on them, and they’re saying to me ‘what would you recommend for families?’.”

“The first thing I would do is I would take them out of the buggy, take that thing (tech device/ earphones) off them and give them a pair of wellies and a raincoat.”

“Get them a little net and bring them rock pool fishing down around the rocks.”

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