Allen O'Donoghue Motivation Interview Podcasts

Coaching specialist Allen O'Donoghue sits down with inspirational individuals to delve into what has motivated them to follow their heart.
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Now displaying: February, 2017
Feb 26, 2017

The word “Drugs” can be really scary for parents – When do I start talking to my child about drugs? What drugs do I talk about?

We live in a drug taking society which means that we need to understand and be aware that our children are going to come across drugs at some stage. The first thing to remember is that our children, in the majority of cases, will come into contact with legal drugs such as alcohol, tobacco and medicines. The secret is to get yourself as much correct information as you can. Talking about legal drugs to your children is a great first step to opening up communication about the subject without getting into the so-called scary stuff!

Don’t panic, you’re not the first parent to worry about whether you know enough or whether your child knows more than you. It’s okay to say “I’m not sure but I’ll find out for you”. With all of our discussions, communication is the most important part of the parent/child relationship and never more so than discussing drugs. If you have good communication, your child is less likely to go looking for information elsewhere. As a parent it’s important for you to learn the correct facts about drugs and luckily there are many really good resources on the internet, some of which we have put up on our site

Why is it important for parents to talk about drugs with their children?

  • No Family is immune from the impact of drugs. Be they legal or illegal drugs, many families will have some dealings with drugs.
  • Children know more about drugs than we think. They come across drug use in the home from a very early age. This is when it’s a great opportunity to open up the discussion around drugs.
  • Generally society will use scare tactics to “frighten” people into doing or not doing what someone wants. Drug use is a prime example of this.
  • Ultimately if you have a child who does get into difficulty with drugs or is struggling to not give into peer pressure, they will need you to be there for them.

When should parents start the drug conversation?

  • This very much depends on the parent and how comfortable/knowledgeable they are about the drug(s) in question.
  • Children will be aware of legal drugs such as tobacco, alcohol and medication. This is a great opportunity for parents to begin the conversation around safe use of legal drugs and the law. It does not have to be significantly in depth but you can discuss the effects of having too much of a certain drug and what it can do to you.
  • Use “teachable moments”. If you have to give your child some medication, see an anti-smoking advert on tv or even if you’re not drinking at a family event, you can use this opportunity to discuss the reasons for these.

What about the preteens?

  • Find out what they know. You can discuss with you preteen what drugs they have heard about and where they heard them from. It’s a good opportunity then for you to get the information for yourself and chat to them about what you feel they need to know.
  • Discuss the difference between legal and illegal drugs.
  • Provide reassurance. As your child gets closer to second level school, reassure them that if they ever come across or feel pressure to take any drugs, they can always come to you and you will help them deal with it.
  • Practice role playing situations. With your child you can practice how they might say no or give them alternatives to being in those situations like, “I have to be home at X time”, “I got in trouble the last time, I can’t afford to get in trouble again”.

And then the teens?

  • It’s really important to not be judgemental if your child comes to you to talk about drugs.
  • Don’t dismiss what they believe as ridiculous. They came to you with, which is a huge bonus, sit and discuss with them where they got their information and then discuss the facts that you know.
  • Don’t assume that your child has tried drugs/will never try drugs. Both of these issues can bring their own pitfalls. Some parents feel that it is a good idea to drug test their child with a home testing kit bought from a pharmacy. As I have said to many parents, you need to be prepared to deal with either outcome. If it is a negative result, you have effectively told your child that you don’t believe/trust them while if it’s a positive result, what will you do then? Many parents don’t think through the consequences of carrying out these tests and by communicating with your child, there is more of a chance that you can work together to find a solution.
  • Don’t ignore your gut feeling. If you have concerns, speak to your child.
  • If you child does come to you with a problem or you find out that your child is taking drugs, don’t overreact. What your child needs is to be supported to stop. First things first, let them know you’re there for them and that you will help them get through whatever the situation is for them. Then depending on how severe the situation, you can contact your doctor for a referral to local drug services. You can also find out what services are available in your local area that could be more appropriate to your child’s needs.
  • While it’s important to support your child, you must also keep yourself and your family safe. If you’re concerned about your child’s behaviour while they are under the influence, it might be worth speaking to your local community gardai about the situation and as for their advice if there is violence.

Where can parent get more information?

There are some wonderful resources out there. Many parenting drug awareness programmes offered through schools and youth/parent programmes. There are also some excellent sites with some good information to support parents and teens through a very difficult time. A selection of these we have linked below.

Intervention – Drug and Alcohol Information and Support in Ireland –

Talking to Your Child About Drugs

Drug info - FRANK

Feb 26, 2017

Talking about sex with your child can be just as daunting as talking about drugs with your child. How can parents approach the subject without embarrassing their children and themselves?

• This really does depend on how your child develops physically and emotionally. Both of which can happen a different times. There are some really good books out there now for tweens & young teens about changes that happen to both boys and girls, and I think it’s really important for both to understand how the opposite sex develops as well. By buying one of these books, it introduces your child to the idea of changes and even just telling them that they can read it in their own time and ask you any questions they may have gives your child a sense of freedom and also allows them to process things in their own head. This way they can come to you when they are ready and not just when you think ‘they should know’.

• Children are capable of understand so much from quite a young age. From 2-3 you can start to refer to parts of the body by their actual names, this actually will help when it comes to more in depth conversations in later years.

• 7-8 is a good age to begin to talk about where babies come from. Be factual and you can continually refer to the importance of a healthy loving relationship.

• 8-9 is also a good time to begin discussing the changes that will occur in your child’s body and the body of the opposite sex.

• There are some very good books out there for boys and girls on the changes that take place.

• As you discuss relationships, it’s so important to constantly refer to healthy relationships and model this. Ask your children what they think a healthy relationship should be like and discuss from there.


Our children are growing up in a digital age now, how can this impact on our children’s ideas of relationships?

• Remember you are your child’s biggest role model, so how you conduct your relationships has been teaching them from day one.

• So many teens put huge weight on getting large amounts of “likes” and “online friends” but there are so many dangers linked to this.

• It’s important to teach our children about healthy relationships and what they look like. Pornography and the general media distort the reality of what a healthy relationship is like. We need to take this on board and not leave our children to see that this is what relationships should be like.


Comedians will regularly joke about teens becoming irrational and everything being “So unfair!” Why is this the case?

• There are actual physical and emotional changes that take place in teens that cause them to be quite moody. A teenagers brain grows and develops are a really rapid rate and this can cause their moods to shift just as quickly.

• Also due to these rapid changes, teenagers have poor impulse control so they can say things they don’t mean.

• The physical changes that teens go through also impact on their moods. In girls, they get their monthly cycle and this can cause significant mood swings.

• Both boys and girls are trying to get to grips with who they are in the world and put with the physical and emotional changes, can lead them to feel very insecure.

• Your preteen/teen has much more of an understanding about what happens in the world and it isn’t a nice place sometimes. As a child, they just had to worry about who they were going to play with or what was for dinner but as they get older they begin to fully realise that people hurt and kill people, that animals are killed for food and other realisations that can be hard to get to grips with.


What can a parent do to support their child through the teens?

• Don’t just dismiss what is happening a “they’re just being moody!” It’s important for your child (no matter what age) to know that their feelings matter and are important to you. This can be difficult, especially if it is a regular occurrence but you have to remember that that break up at 14 really does feel like the end of the world to your child.

• Our bodies tell us how we are feeling before our mind does. We will feel a tightening in our stomach or sweating etc, so let’s work with our teens to help them to recognise these signs and offer tips to reduce their stress levels.

• Maintaining physical health will have a significant impact on how our children can deal with their emotional health. Both are as important as the other. Getting enough sleep, eating healthily, getting exercise etc are all so important to being able to maintain our health. We also need to be part of this and model the importance of physical health.

• Talk about how we cope with issues and how they can do the same. This can be hard as we have to look at ourselves and realise that our children see how we deal with issues. Let them know that they can take time out, go for a walk, talk to someone they trust and relaxation techniques in order to de-stress.

• Encourage your teens to get out and about. There are more and more options being brought onto the market to keep us indoors or interacting online. Make sure your children are involved in activities and encourage them to spend time with their friends.

• Teach them social responsibility. One of the most fulfilling things we can do is give time to help others. Getting our kids volunteering will give them so much personally while helping others at the same time.


You can download our free factsheet - Helping Teens Cope

Feb 19, 2017

More and more children are being diagnosed as suffering from anxiety.


Some are more severe than others, but for each individual child, there are parents who can sometimes feel very lost in how to help and support their child through times like this.

One of the most anxious times for any parent can be having a teenager leave school early, no matter what the reason. Today we will explore ways to deal with your own feelings and supporting your child as best as you can.


What do we mean when we talk about anxiety?

  • The first thing to say is that most of us feel anxious at different times in our lives. It is a natural emotion that anyone can experience especially if there is a significant event coming up.
  • What we need to recognise is that anxiety is an emotion of the future. By that I mean, we worry about something turning out worse than we hoped.
  • We can exaggerate how badly things are going to turn out and this causes a body reaction such as butterflies or sweating.
  • We rarely imagine the event turning out unbelievably positive, yet there is as much chance of this happening as the worst case scenario happening.
  • Teenagers are growing up in a world where there is so much focus on each person (selfies, social media etc) where validation and acceptance come from well outside the normal peer boundaries.


Teenagers seem to have so many different issues that can lead to feelings of anxiety, and this can be a massive worry for parents. Are there any ways that parents can help to reduce their child’s anxiety?

  • There are many different models for working with people who are suffering from anxiety and for most people, we don’t want our kids popping pills. We would much rather they learn to deal with these anxieties and the causes for themselves.
  • How many people do you know, got into a car to learn to drive, had an accident early in their driving career and never drove again. What happens is that an event takes place, that causes a person to think a certain way about their driving, which then causes an emotional reaction (fear, embarrassment etc), which leads to a physical feeling in the body (butterflies, making themselves sick) that impacts on behaviour (never driving again). Cognitive Behavioural Therapy believes that if you can change any one of these, there is a higher chance of success.
  • You need to listen to your child, not only to what they are saying but to what they are feeling. Don’t dismiss their feelings by saying that the “bully won’t hit you today”. I was given a great analogy once, where it was described as your child, when they think of school, sees a huge tidal wave about to crash in around them. It’s important to get to the root of the issue.
  • Ask your child how they might like to deal with the situation that is causing them anxiety, if they can begin to change that sense of hopelessness, they are in a much stronger position to overcome.
  • Get them to practise mindfulness techniques where they focus on their body and breathing properly. When you are anxious, your breathing increases and your body goes into fight, flight or freeze mode. By teaching you child to control their breath, will help them to slow this process down.
  • Enlist the help of a professional if it is so severe that it becomes debilitating.


Having a child leave school early is almost a worst case scenario for many parents. How can parents handle this situation?

  • There are really a number of different elements here. Legally if you child is under 16 they need to be in school. Nearly all parents are well aware of this, but can still struggle to get their child back into education.
  • Engage with your local Education Welfare Officer. They will be able to tell you all the available options for your child and will advocate on behalf of your child if they have been put out of one school and you’re struggling to find another school that will take your child.
  • If your child is just refusing to go to school, you need to learn what the reasons are for this. You will most likely hear, “I just hate it” or “I hate a certain teacher” or “It bores me”, but is your child actually saying, “I’m struggling with the work” or “I don’t understand what the teacher is saying to me”. When children struggle in school, how they can deal with it in many cases, is through disruption or aggressive behaviour which distracts from them not understanding the content.
  • There really is no point in asking your child “What do you want to do with your life”, you might as well be asking if they fancy a first class trip to the moon. Many teenagers live in the here and now and the future is not necessarily something they worry about.
  • The main objective is to get them back into some form of education as quickly as possible. There are many non-traditional educational options available in most areas now, so take the time to find out what and where the options are, just in case another school won’t take them in.
  • It’s also important for your child to not be left to sit around and sleep in. This will encourage them to stay up late and as the novelty of being out of school wears off, they can become restless and this is when they can gravitate towards groups of other young people who might encourage anti-social behaviour.
  • Get them working with/for you or a relative where they have a purpose for each day. This may also make them realise that school wasn’t quite as bad as they thought.
  • Try and talk to them about what the issues were in school that caused them to leave. You will probably be told that it was down to everyone else, but try and dig deeper with them.
  • Come up with a plan together. They may be embarrassed at being put out of school, but this may show itself through angry and aggressive behaviour. Maintain the household boundaries but try and work with your child to reassure them that you will support them through this period.
  • Keep your own emotions and disappointment in check. You might feel embarrassed and let down by your child. Its okay to let your child know you’re disappointed but let them know you’re not giving up on them.
  • If your child just refuses to go to school, you may have to let natural consequences kick in where they have to get out and get working but it will be important not to facilitate them doing nothing.


Both of these issues can be very difficult for both parent and child. By exploring as many options as possible, you are letting your child know that you are there for them and will work through these issues with them. This can offer such reassurance to your child which can make the process that bit more bearable for both of you.


If you or your child require support around any of the issues discussed above, contact Allen on 086-8058404 or at to arrange a personal appointment.

Feb 19, 2017

We can’t choose our family but we can choose our friends…and your kids are going to choose their friends. As a parent this can be a worry as you may feel that certain friends can be a negative influence on your child. So how do you deal with this in a positive way? 

Do we let our kids pick their own friends or do we have any right to interfere?

  • The best thing you can do is get to know your kids friends. Allow your kids to invite them over to your house and take an interest in getting to know them. You will be amazed at how, when they get to know you on a personal level, will help to influence their actions when it comes to your child and the influence they may try to assert over your child. 
  • There are actually quite a number of levels to dealing with this and a lot will depend on your child’s age. As a younger child, sometimes you might have to say that they cannot play with a certain child as you have concerns but how you deal with this is very important.
  • If you are to just say, “That’s it, you can’t play with them, because we say so”, will most likely just cause confusion within your child. There may be a valid reason, and one that might not be appropriate for your child to know about, but they do need an explanation. The reason for this is that they can begin to think that there is something wrong with their friend or even something wrong with them.
  • Try and get to know the parents of your children’s friends, even just on a first name basis. This will make any potential issues that may arise, easier to deal with in a positive manner.
  • As your kids get older, this can become a lot more difficult to control or impact upon. They will choose their friends based on a shared interest or shared acquaintances. Much of how they deal with situations involving friends will come down to how they view themselves and how they should be treated.
  • By teaching our children to respect themselves and respect others, you are increasing the chances that they will, for the most part, make the right choices. Of course they will make mistakes but that’s when, as parents, we have to be there for them.
  • You may get to a point where you have to approach the parent of a friend and have a frank discussion about how, negatively, both your children are influencing each other. This is not an easy discussion to have and emphasises the importance of knowing their parents. You may be met with a negative response and be ready to keep your cool with this.
  • If your child continues to hang out with an extremely negative influence (someone who maybe is getting them into trouble), you may need to take more drastic actions like severe consequences.
  • And then, the hardest one of all, allow natural consequences kick in. If your child is choosing to get into trouble, whether they are being influenced by others or not, then they have to deal with the outcome of that. You can be there for them to support them but they need to deal with the outcomes of their actions.


For more information contact Allen on 086-8058404 or

Feb 13, 2017

Talking to your kids about money can be something you try to avoid but is this doing them any favours? Sometimes it’s a topic you can’t avoid because there is just not enough money coming into your household. Either way, as parents, it is important to teach your kids about money. In this article we will discuss practical ways to teach your kids how to budget, how to manage their money and how to talk to them honestly about a shortage of money in your home without creating anxiety and stress around the subject.


Some parents ask “Why should children have to worry about money, shouldn’t kids be left to be kids”? 

• There are a few points to make here. One, by talking to and teaching your children about money management, then there is less chance of them “worrying” about money.

• We teach our children how to tie their laces, how to add and subtract, how to cook and clean…all really important life skills, teaching your child how to manage money is an essential life skill that if you don’t do it, someone else will.

• As we say there is no such thing as a perfect parent, and most of us have probably become wiser with our money after making a financial mistake. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a major mistake (like investing in property and losing it, or a minor enough mistake like spending more in the bookies than you’d planned). We learn all the time ourselves, we can teach our kids this learning too but not in a “don’t do what I did” perspective but more from a “this is what I did and why I did it, if I could go back this is how I would have handled it differently”. This shows our kids that we can learn from our mistakes and change the result next time around.

• Children (and adults!) nowadays are used to instant gratification. Be it full TV series on demand or downloading or streaming music when you hear a song you like, we have gotten used to having many things at our finger tips. There is now a pressure on young people to have the latest gadget/game/toy as soon as its released, but if we continue to just get these things for our kids, when they hit adulthood and that first job, where they have to pay bills, save for that first car etc, they can really struggle and can very quickly and easily get into debt with credit cards/loans.

• Kids are dealing with money from a very young age. Whether its money from grandparents or even just doing the weekly household shop, they are understanding that money has a value. We tend to teach our children to be consumers “you can use that money to buy something in the shop” so why not use the opportunity to teach them that they can save for something bigger or that money is not the only commodity they have. They can give their time/support/help/volunteer. And these are just as fulfilling if not more so than toys.

• Many of us have brought our kids to the big toy store with birthday money or  the fiver from granddad and said “right what do you want to buy?” and then spent the next 40mins saying “no you don’t have enough money for that”. Why put ourselves and our kids through this. We can sit down and have a chat about what our kids would like and discuss how much everything is. Even go online and look at some things so they have an idea of what they would like and how much it cost.


So saving is important for children?

• Absolutely. When many of us were young, most of us had to save or wait for what we wanted. This thought us so many life skills (working for extra money, patience, anticipation and the joy of actually earning something you really want), it’s important for our children to learn these lessons too.

• Communion and confirmation (or other relatively large sums of money) are great opportunities to get your children to set up bank accounts and begin the process of saving.

• Weekly pocket money is also good as our children then learn easily, if you want that magazine, you’re going to have to save for a few weeks, or you can get something else now. It also teaches them decision making for themselves which is really important.

• As they get older you can also talk to them about managing debt like credit cards and loans.


With everything people have been through over the last number of years, should we shield our kids from our financial situation?

• If your financial situation has changed it’s okay to let your children know this. It is important however to practically explain how this will impact on them. Kids can worry about losing the house or not having enough food so letting them know that its things like holidays, activities etc that are changing and not the essentials is important and comforting.

• Children’s intuition is very strong and they generally know if what you are saying isn’t the whole truth. They easily pick up on stresses and strains so there is no point in pretending that everything is perfectly fine. Yes they don’t need to know every last detail but to chat to them about the changes you’re making and try and look at the positives. Get kids creating ideas for family activities that are free or cost less. There are tons of free activities happening all over the country every weekend, maybe look at doing something special once a month. Packing up a picnic (even if you have to have it in the car) and going on an adventure is great fun.

• It’s important to teach them that it is possible to manage on a smaller budget but that everyone in the house will have to make changes. It’s a great opportunity to discuss simple money saving tips like turning off lights, unplugging tv/consoles etc at night, not leaving taps running…all things that will actually help reduce the household outgoings.

• Getting your kids to do chores around the house are a great way of them earning their pocket money but also giving them a sense of contributing to the running of the house. This can have a big impact as they get older of feeling a strong connection to the family and the home, especially if they run into difficulties.

• Try to avoid phrases like “we can’t afford it”. This might be true but can feed into your child’s worries about the family income. Try things like “you’re going to have to save for it” “the money we normally spend on going on holidays is going towards X”.


What about for parents themselves?

• Set up a household budget and be strict on it and honest about your outgoings. There’s no point in not doing it as ultimately all it will do is cause you more stress.

• Many parents are slow to cut their kids’ activities when budgets change but everything has to be on the table. If you aren’t going to cut these activities, you have to find where you are going to make the same savings elsewhere.

• Practise what you preach. There’s no point in getting your kids to try and help with the family saving and you wasting money yourself. If you’re kids are going to miss out on activities, you should also show them that you are willing to make sacrifices.

• Remember that time with your kids is far more important than buying them things. Get out and run around and have fun with them. Not only will it give them lovely memories, but it will make your own worries melt away for a while at least.

•A father recently told me about losing his job 2 years ago and how he is so much happier now as he has a much stronger relationship with his kids and although this doesn’t take away the money worries he has, he says it gives him much more fulfilment than he ever got from working.