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STOP: Part one – a situation going badly
in Short course: “Getting It Right for Children”

The first step is usually to STOP arguing. This means staying calm, making sure you listen and being prepared to see things differently.

You've just seen a situation going badly.

In this situation, Mia was put in the middle of her parents’ conflict. Children can often feel like they’re being put into these different roles by their parents.

Here are the roles Mia was put into:

  • Spy. Asking your child questions about their other parent’s life can put them in the middle and make them feel like a spy.
  • Judge. When you criticise or blame your ex in front of your children, they may feel confused. Children cannot be expected to judge who is right and who is wrong – they don’t like having to choose and shouldn’t have to stick up for either of you.
  • Messenger. Parents often use their children to pass on information about money or arrangements. Being a messenger between parents can make children feel caught in the middle.
  • Witness. Seeing or hearing conflict between parents is very stressful for children. They may worry that if you can stop loving each other, you might stop loving them too.

There are three important skills that can help make it easier for you to reach agreements for your child. 

1. Staying calm

Staying calm is all about slowing down, keeping your emotions under control, and getting your thoughts in order. Take a deep breath. When you’re calm, you're in a better position to stop disagreements from escalating. 

2. Listening

Often, when we should be listening, we are too busy thinking about how we are going to reply. It’s not easy to listen to someone you don’t agree with, but you’ll reach an agreement much faster if you make the effort to understand the other person’s perspective before you respond.

3. Seeing things differently

Stepping into your ex’s shoes might be the last thing you want to do. It's easy to assume the worst about someone you've separated from but looking at a situation from someone else's point of view can help you make sense of their behaviour.

Now watch the next clip to see how things can go differently when parents use these skills.

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