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Irish Customs Around Family and Children

In this series of articles about Irish customs, I want to introduce you to peculiarities in how Irish people interact. What are Irish people like? 

On this page, I want to talk about families and children, two very important things in Ireland.

Children In Ireland

Something I still find remarkable after all these years of living in Ireland is how kind people are to young children. The Irish treat their children well.

When I am out and about with my kids, people we meet will always make contact with the kids as well.

They smile with them and talk to them as the little people they are about things that are important in their little worlds. In Ireland, people understand having kids as something to be enjoyed. And enjoying them means to have fun with them.

Kids are valued here, and have a lot of freedom to be kids. They can run wild and mess around and it will be tolerated as good fun and as ‘the kind of thing kids that age will do'.

Family values in Ireland- Family and children are important here.

A family on their weekend outing, watching a street performance in Galway.

Many people see disciplining as something for a little later in life. Irish people will spend money on their kids before the spend money on themselves.

Many who have lived abroad for years, return to have their children here. Ireland is seen as a great place to raise kids, even though, compared to other European countries, the services and benefits aren't great.

Babies especially are doted over. Everyone here loves babies. Even grown men will comment on your baby and ask you about how she is doing, or give her a smile.

Therefore, if you meet people with babies in Ireland in any context, whether they are introduced to you, or whether you are out and about and are just talking to strangers, be nice and get in on the Irish customs around babies.

Comment, compliment the mother, ask about the baby, ’flirt’ with the baby. Whatever comes easy. It’s the right thing to do socially, and it’s fun.

Irish Customs Around The Family

Family is a big thing in Ireland, and Irish customs around families are a good thing know about. In most people’s lives, family values will rank highly.

Parenting is still quite traditional in the sense that the State offers no option for paternal leave, and that in most families, men are still the main earners of family income. Therefore, in most cases, the Irish mums are in charge of family life.

When women have babies and young children, they will try to spend as much time as possible at home with them. Of course, this will depend on family finances and on each particular situation, but in whatever way they can, they will make their children the number one thing in their lives.

If mums are at home or work only part time, they will give lifts to school and afterschool events, to sports matches, to friends houses and so on. They cook the meals and organise school uniforms and homework. Dad will often come home late from work, but will make sure to be present for the important weekend events like swimming lessons, Gaelic football matches and birthday parties.

The family of origin is extremely important as well. One might not share many of the same values as one’s parents, but parents will be respected and visited regularly.

Most Irish people I have come to know will work hard exercising tolerance, avoidance or whatever it takes to avoid any conflict with their parents. Conflict is seen as being ‘not worth it’. There is a great awareness of life being limited, being ‘too short’ to be tainted by arguments. You could argue that avoiding conflict is an Irish custom.

Some siblings can be very close even in adult life. In rural areas, siblings will often end up becoming neighbours, and their kids will be best friends as well as cousins, being in and out of each others’ houses.

Read More About Irish Customs

Find out some secrets to starting a conversation with an Irish person.

Read about the next stage in making conversation where your conversation partner will look to bond with you.

Find out peculiar facts on how Irish people interact.

Find out about the concepts of privacy and personal space in Ireland.

Find out some secrets to social interaction in Ireland when you are out and about.

Find out some first impressions about the Irish that will strike you early on.

Communication in some Irish families can be an interesting experience for someone who is not used to it. In many families, the mother is the hub of communications, and adult siblings will only communicate to each other through her.

Alternatively, if they do talk to each other directly, they won’t talk about issues that concern A and B who are talking, but rather, A and B will discuss C’s problems. Later on, B and C might talk about what is bothering A. To this day, witnessing this indirect communication is very strange for me.

Communication in Germany is straight up. Even though I have mellowed a lot over the years and would often pull away from being too straight out for fear of hurting the other side’s feelings, I would still want to speak directly to the person concerned. But in Ireland, addressing a situation directly, especially in a family context, can often be seen as inappropriate or even threatening.

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Regards, Colm and Susanna

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