Considering separation as new parents

If you're in the pregnancy phase, or if you've just had a child, you may be facing some unique relationship challenges.

Pregnant and splitting up
If you’re pregnant and going through a separation, you might be worrying about how the breakup will affect your child. Stress One of the things you might be thinking about is how the stress of separation or divorce might affect your baby’s development in the womb. Research has found that relationship strain during pregnancy appears to be linked to negative cognitive and behavioural development in children [1]. If separation is the right thing for you as parents, it’s possible to minimise the stress and remain supportive to each other. This might be very difficult, especially if there are unresolved issues between you but, by being reasonable, rational and respectful, it is possible. Take your time to talk through a plan of action. If you decide to stay together, talk to your partner about how you can help reduce stress during the pregnancy. Maybe take up some light exercise together, or practice some yoga designed for pregnancy. If you do have arguments, take the calm and collected approach. If things get heated, take a break and return to the issue when you feel calmer. A two-parent family You may want your child to be brought up by two parents, especially if you were raised by both parents and want your child to have a similar upbringing. Some studies have found that children in two-parent homes are less likely to grow up in poverty [2], and are also less likely to develop emotional problems [3]. But, single-parent families are becoming more common and there is lots of support available for single parents. The number of lone-parent households in the UK grew steadily from 1.8 million in 2003 to nearly 1.9 million in 2013 [5]. While some research suggests that children in single-parent families have poorer outcomes, other research shows that, when it comes to their overall happiness, family composition doesn’t really matter [6]. It’s the quality of the relationship you have with your child that counts. If you stay with your partner, talk about how you want to raise your child. You both may have different ideas of what family life will be like. Take the time, hear each other out and make compromises where you can. Adjustment You may have been brought up in a single-parent household and found it hard to adjust to life. You may have witnessed conflict between your separated parents and, at times, may have felt caught between the two. A poll of 500 young people found that one in three felt that one of their parents had tried to turn them against the other during the breakup [4]. If your own upbringing in a single-parent household was difficult, it’s understandable that you wouldn’t want your child to go through a similar experience.  It’s important to nurture a good co-parenting relationship with your ex-partner. A good place to start is to seek mediation or create a parenting plan so you can agree on how you will raise your child.   References [1] Bergman K., Sarkar P., O'Connor T.G., Modi N., Glover V. (2007). Maternal stress during pregnancy predicts cognitive ability and fearfulness in infancy. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 2007 Nov; 46(11):1454-63. DOI: 10.1097/chi.0b013e31814a62f6 [2] Gingerbread (2018). Single parent statistics. Retrived on 16 April 2018 from: http://www.gingerbread.org.uk/content/365/Statistics [3] Parry-Langdon, N. (2008). Three years on: Survey of the development and emotional well-being of children and young people. Office for National Statistics [4] Office for National Statistics (2013). Families and Households: 2013. Retrieved from http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/family-demography/families-and-households/2013/stb-families.html [5] The Parent Connection. Children in single parent families no less happy than those in two parent households. Retrieved from: http://theparentconnection.org.uk/blog/children-in-single-parent-families-no-less-happy-than-those-in-two-parent-households [6] The Parent Connection. 1 in 3 young people say one parent tried to turn them against the other during divorce. Retrieved from: http://theparentconnection.org.uk/blog/1-in-3-young-people-say-one-parent-tried-to-turn-them-against-the-other-during-divorce
Article | breakups, pregnancy
4 min read
Managing parenting styles after separation
When parents separate and emotions are running high, it can be hard to find common ground, but the parenting relationship continues long after the couple relationships ends. You and your ex-partner will have to find a way to make it work, even if you have different parenting styles. Parenting styles    Parenting styles are not set in stone, but you might recognise bits of yourself or your ex in one of these: Authoritarian. Authoritarian parenting is a very strict style, with rules that aren’t to be questioned by children. It can be effective in the short term but may be damaging to children’s confidence and self-esteem [1]. Permissive. Permissive parenting has very few rules and parents tend to take on more of a friendship role. Children raised without clear boundaries sometimes struggle to cope with stress when they get older [2]. Authoritative. Authoritative parenting is more balanced. Rules and guidelines are explained to children, and balanced with warmth and caring. Children with this type of background tend to be more confident and socially responsible, and better at making decisions for themselves [1]. Parents whose styles differ can find it hard to reach agreements, even when they are together. If you’ve separated from your child’s other parent, it may seem impossible. But, if you work together, you’ll find you can reach compromises and ensure that your child’s best interests are prioritised [3]. Parenting after separation When parents split up, one of the biggest risks to children’s wellbeing comes from the increased conflict they witness. Having a positive relationship with your ex can minimise this risk [3], so it’s important to try and share parenting in a collaborative way. There are bound to be some disagreements but you can protect your children by making sure you don’t argue in front of them or put them in the middle of your conflict.  Don’t ask your children to spy on your ex. Don’t make them responsible for sharing information about living arrangements or money. Don’t use time spent with one parent or the other as a punishment or reward. Don’t lean on your children for emotional support when you are sad or angry about your separation. Don’t try to convince your children that you are right and your ex is wrong.  Work things out with your ex. Talk about what each of you feels is best for the children – not for yourselves – and agree to make compromises. Find common parenting ground A parenting plan can help you sort out the practical arrangements. The free template at Splitting Up? Put Kids First allows you to come up with agreements and compromises online so you can review each other’s suggestions without having to get together face to face. There are some specific communication skills that can help you get on better with your ex-partner and get through the conversations that you need to have. The course Getting it Right for Children, can help you with these skills: Staying calm. Active listening. Seeing things from different perspectives. Speaking for yourself. Sticking to the rules. Negotiating solutions. Working things out, and trying the solutions you have agreed. The course is free and may help you to and your ex find solutions that make life easier for your children as they adjust to their new circumstances. Parents who have taken this course showed improvements in the following areas: Talking to their ex-partners about childcare. Keeping conflict away from children. Staying out of court. Keeping calm with ex-partners. Seeing things from each other’s points of view. Agreeing on childcare solutions [4]. These tools can help you get through the initial transition or a difficult period later on. Your parenting styles and your children’s needs will naturally develop over the course of time, so it’s always useful to be able to communicate well and reach compromises.  When disagreements arise, keep talking. When your styles clash again, look for common ground. Keep practising and remember: no matter how you and your ex-partner might feel about each other, the best solutions are the ones that work for your children. References [1] Baumrind, D. (1991). The Influence of Parenting Style on Adolescent Competence and Substance Use. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 11(1), 56–95. [2] Benson, M. J., Buehler, C., & Gerard, J. M. (2008). Interparental Hostility and Early Adolescent Problem Behavior: Spillover via Maternal Acceptance, Harshness, Inconsistency, and Intrusiveness. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 28(3), 428–454. [3] Chen, M. and Johnston, C. (2012). Interparent Childrearing Disagreement, but not Dissimilarity, Predicts Child Problems after Controlling for Parenting Effectiveness. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 41 (2), 189-201. [4] Getting it Right for Children When Parents Part: https://click.clickrelationships.org/content/parenting-apart/course-getting-it-right-for-children/
Article | parenting apart, parenting styles, co-parenting
4 min read
Separating from a pregnant partner
If you and the mother of your child have separated, you might be worried about what time you’ll get to spend with your child. If the relationship between you and your ex is volatile, you might not be able to hold a conversation long enough to discuss joint childcare arrangements. Why do I feel scared about this? There a few reasons you might feel this way: If you’ve recently separated, emotions will be running high and everything can be quite intense. It’s common to be overwhelmed, and this could be affecting your worldview. You may have heard stories of other dads not getting the chance to play a part in their children’s lives after a separation. 13% of non-resident fathers say they have no contact and never see their child [1], and this is a frightening statistic for expectant dads contemplating a separation. You might worry that you don’t have as many legal rights as your partner, or that they will move on with someone new who could take on a parenting role with your child. How can I help the situation? If your partner is angry and doesn’t want anything to do with you, first let the dust settle. Give her with space, and respect the decisions she makes for your child. The law will always favour your child’s needs, so the best thing you can do is demonstrate that you will be a positive influence in your child’s life. When the time is right, you could talk with her about doing a parenting plan. We offer a free online parenting plan where you can make decisions and make plans without having to speak directly to your ex. You will get a notification when they have made a suggestion, and you can agree, disagree, or find a compromise – all the while focusing on the best arrangements for the baby. Research suggests that even though regular face-to-face meetings are most ideal, frequent contact by phone or email can make up for distance from your child [2]. Although this kind of contact may not be ideal, it should enable you to maintain your parent-child bond. This is particularly good news if you live in a different location to your partner and your child. If your partner ends up blocking you from seeing your child, then you may need to go down the legal route. While the courts recognise the importance of the mother in the very early years, there is no gender bias. Researchers from the University of Warwick found that fathers applying for child contact had been “overwhelmingly successful” and that dads fared just as well as mums when making contact applications [3].   References [1] Eloise Poole. (2013). What do we know about non-resident fathers? Retrieved from Modern Fatherhood: www.modernfatherhood.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Briefing-paper-Non-resident-fathers.pdf [2] McGene, J. and King, V. (2012) Implications of New Marriages and Children for Coparenting in Nonresident Father Families. Journal of Family Issues, 33(12), 1619–41. [3] Warwick University (2015). Study finds English and Welsh family courts not discriminating against fathers. Retrieved from: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases/study_finds_english/
Article | breakups, contact
4 min read
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