Short course: “Getting It Right for Children”
  • Do you know the best ways to stay calm and to make sure you listen as well as talk?
  • Are you prepared to see things differently?
  • Can you stop a discussion turning into an argument?

When things get heated, most people struggle to keep their cool. Research shows that drawn-out disagreements between parents can make children feel stressed and unhappy, particularly when it’s obvious to them that something is going on. 

What do I need to do?


Making agreements can be hard. Sticking to them can be even harder!

Practising communication and negotiation skills can help things go more smoothly, even if you and your child’s other parent have very different opinions and emotions are running high. 

We've suggested a good place for you to start based on what you've told us already. In this section you can work on improving the way you communicate and negotiate. The skills you gain will help you work with your child's other parent to create and stick to your Parenting Plan.

Most people find it helpful to go through the skills in order, so we'd recommend starting at the beginning, and going through the three sections in order:

  • STOP
  • TALK IT OUT
  • WORK IT OUT

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

The next step is to TALK IT OUT. Here, you will learn how to speak for yourself and the benefits of being clear and sticking to the rules

The final step is to WORK IT OUT. This is where you bring it all together by looking at the best ways to negotiate when things are difficult.

Activity progress 0 of 10 Complete

Activity progress 0 of 10 Complete

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STOP: Part one – a situation going badly
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.   Skills 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.
Video | course, GIRFC
4
TALK IT OUT: Part one – a situation going badly
The skills from the STOP section helped you prepare for difficult conversations. At this stage, TALK IT OUT, we take a look at how you can use these skills to help conversations go more smoothly. You've just seen a situation going badly. Here are ways in which Emily and Jordan have been put in the middle: 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. Reward and punishment. Spending time with either parent should never be treated as a reward or punishment. As long it’s safe, children do better when they continue to have a relationship with both parents. Skills When you need to talk something out, it can be helpful to keep things simple, focus on the most important point, and try to be polite. Speaking for yourself Does talking to your ex make you angry? Sometimes, it can feel like you're being blamed for everything: “You do this, you do that, you're a rubbish parent!”. You can’t change what gets said to you, but you can help keep things calm by voicing your own thoughts in a less confrontational way. Using ‘I’ statements When you want to talk about how you feel, it can be helpful to phrase it in the form of an ‘I’ statement. This involves stating what you feel and what you need. Try filling in the gaps with something you’d like to tell your child’s other parent: I feel _________ when you _________ because _________. What I need is _________. Being clear and sticking to the rules Do your discussions tend to move from a question about why your child hasn't done their homework to a shouting match about who is to blame for everything that's ever gone wrong? Keep things simple, and stick to one point at a time – you’re far more likely to be heard. 
Video | GIRFC, course
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