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Lockdown: coping with grief
When someone dies, our usual ways of coping and moving on are built around getting together with loved ones. During social distancing, we may have to adjust to new ways of dealing with grief. Funeral attendance is being limited to small numbers of close family. For many people, this means not getting a chance to say goodbye. For those who can attend, it might be upsetting to see a small turnout, knowing their loved one isn’t getting the send-off they deserved. Grieving from a distance Even when you’re not able to get together physically, you can still mark the loss. If possible, attend a live stream of the funeral. Many funerals are being filmed and streamed so that mourners can watch them safely from home. Plan a memorial service. We don’t know when or how things will change but, at some point, we’ll be able to meet up again. Planning a service or celebration in the future can help you move forward in the present. Write down some memories of the person who has died. This can help you acknowledge the loss and reflect on what the person meant to you. Pick up the phone or arrange a video chat. You and your loved ones can share memories and offer each other support. Look for the positives. After some time has passed, you may find it easier to step back and see if anything positive has come out of the situation. Perhaps you’re connecting with friends and family in a different way or seeing how people can come together under difficult circumstances [1]. How am I supposed to feel? Right now, it can be hard to know what’s normal. There’s no set path that you’re supposed to follow after a death, but it can be comforting to know the types of things people often go through. Rather than being sad all the time, people often go back and forth between grieving and getting on with things. You might find yourself switching between moments when you feel very sad, and moments when you feel relatively normal [2]. Often, we push away difficult thoughts and feelings. We might try to convince ourselves everything is OK, even when it’s not. Sometimes, we use drugs or alcohol to try and change the way we feel. Whatever we do to push our feelings away, they will always find a way back in. It won’t always be easy, but it’s best just to let your feelings come and go – that’s how you process them and move forward [1]. Supporting each other as a couple If you’re in a relationship, you and your partner can support each other by sharing the grieving process. At the very least, talking to each other about how you’re feeling can make it easier for both of you to cope [3]. Under normal circumstances, this might mean going to the funeral together or visiting a memorial site, but you can still find rituals to share from home – like lighting a candle or listening to a special piece of music. These shared experiences can help you both adjust to the loss [4]. Even if you don’t live together, you could still meet up online and do something together. One thing to bear in mind, if you’re in a mixed sex couple, is that men and women often have different ways of coping. Women tend to want to surround themselves with other people and talk through memories with friends and family. Men tend to find this type of social support less useful, and may prefer to work through things alone, at least at first [4]. Of course, this won’t be true for everyone. However you and your partner deal with loss, try to be patient with each other and understand that we all have our own ways of dealing with things. Supporting someone else through grief If someone you know is dealing with grief, give them a call. You could text them to arrange a convenient time, or you could just pick up the phone and see if they answer. If it’s not a convenient time, they will let you know. If you want to do something practical, you could arrange to have something sent over. Lots of places are still delivering food, drink, flowers, books, and other things. Think about what might help cheer the person up and send them a pleasant surprise. This will let them know you are thinking about them. References [1] Mikulincer & Florian, 1996[2] Stroebe & Schut, 1999[3] Albuquerque, Narciso, & Pereira, 2018[4] Bergstraesser, Inglin, Hornung, & Landolt, 2014  
Article | lockdown, grief
Parenting in lockdown
During a global event, we’re all making adjustments and looking for ways to cope. As a parent, you know that your children are still relying on you for support. You want to give them everything they need, but it isn’t always easy – especially when you’re dealing with your own worries. Coping together as parents Parents who focus on supporting each other as a couple, are more likely to be able to deal with the stresses of parenting [1]. If you can listen to each other, share the burden, and present a united front, you’ll find it gets easier to come to agreements about parenting [2]. Your children will cope better too – they’ll be less likely to feel sad or anxious, or to act out through stress [3]. Talking to children about the situation It can be hard to know how much to tell your children about everything that’s going on. They will already know a lot because of the changes they’ve had to make in their lives and, depending on their age, they may have picked up information from the news or from their friends. But, with lots of uncertainty and new information coming out every day, you might want to protect them from knowing too much. It’s natural to want to protect your children but shielding them from difficult news can actually be worse for them than just answering their questions. It’s usually best just to tell the truth. How to answer children’s questions Generally, if your child is ready to ask a question, they are ready to hear the answer. You don’t have to tell them everything – keep their age in mind, and only tell them as much as is necessary to answer their question. They can always ask a follow-up question if they want to know more. If you don’t know something, say so. There’s lots we’re not sure about at the moment and it’s better to be honest. If there’s something you’re not comfortable answering, you could try asking your child why they’ve asked that particular question. You could also ask them what they already know, as this can help you understand where they’re coming from. Children are reassured by the information they get from their parents, and it’s helpful for them to know they can rely on you [4] [5]. When they feel informed about what’s going on, they can get on with being kids again. Get them drawing Some younger children might find it hard to talk about their worries. Very young children often don’t have the words to describe what they’re feeling. One thing you can do to help them express themselves is to get them drawing. Grab some pens or pencils and invite them to draw something that shows how they’re feeling. Children can often find it easier to express themselves in this way [6]. A bit of fun It can be hard to find time to relax, especially if you’re trying to fit home schooling around working from home. But, if you can, try to build in some time for fun activities with the children – even it’s just playing or reading together. When you look back on all this, you might find that your role has just been to help your children stay calm and healthy. Don’t put too much pressure on yourselves to do anything more than that. Take it a day at a time and keep looking after each other – that’s all anyone can really ask of you. References [1] Brown, 2012[2] Zemp, Milek, Cummings, & Bodenmann, 2017[3] Zemp, Bodenmann, Backes, Sutter-Stickel, & Revenson, 2016.[4] Kennedy, V. L., & Lloyd‐Williams, M., 2009[5] Osborn, T., 2007[6] Eiser & Twamley, 1999    
Article | parenting together, social distancing
Lockdown: how couples can cope together
Over the course of your lives as a couple, you’ll probably go through lots of stressful situations together. Many of these will be things that only happen to one of you, like getting ill or having a tough time at work. In those times, the other partner might step up and offer support. But, as we all adjust to living through a global event, we find ourselves facing something that affects everyone – that alone can be a lot to deal with, and it may kick off lots of difficult thoughts and feelings. As a couple, it can be hard to know how to cope. What does this mean to each of you as individuals? How will you support each other? What if you both need support at the same time? We’re all going to deal with this in our own ways. You and your partner may have different ways of coping, and you may need different types of support at different times. Coping with stress together Stress happens when we feel unable to cope with the things we need to do. It’s like a balancing act – when you’re feeling strong and energised, you can cope with all that life throws at you. But, if you’re feeling worried and tired, then even an average day can be overwhelming [1]. Having a supportive partner can help you feel more in control of things. When you and your partner support each other well, you might find you’re both better at coping with – and moving on from – stressful situations [2] [3]. Many couples and families have found themselves in lockdown or self-isolation together. This is a new and strange situation and is likely to require new ways of coping together. But here’s something interesting – even in a ‘normal’ situation, with just one of you under stress, we would still recommend finding a way of coping together. So, from that point of view, the way you’ll get through this situation shouldn’t be entirely different from the way you’d get through any other. Shared coping is easier when you’ve got shared goals. These might be long term jobs like keeping the house clean or helping the children with their schoolwork, or they could be fun things like working through a box set or doing a jigsaw puzzle together. Think about what you both want to get out of this time. Perhaps you could draw up a list of goals to work on together – even easy ones will help you feel connected. You can use the goal-setting feature on Click. Getting through a crisis can be good for your relationship, as long as you find ways of coping together. Mutual support can reduce stress for both of you – when one of you feels better, the other will too, and this can make you feel more supported as a unit [4]. This is great news because, when we’re happy with our relationships, we tend to feel better in general [5]. How to be supportive for your partner Support can be offered in different ways: Emotional support.This is when you show your partner that you have understood. Practical support. This is when you offer ways of solving a problem. Delegating. This is when you take on tasks to give your partner a break [6]. Emotional support helps your partner feel listened to and shows them that you are making the effort understand what they are going through. It’s usually best to offer emotional support first, rather than jumping in with practical support. This video shows the difference between emotional and practical support. The video was made at a time when going out and doing the shopping was a little easier than it is now, but the ideas are still relevant. Notice Naomi’s reaction to the different types of support from Liam: When you offer support, do it willingly, and take your partner’s concerns seriously. They will be able to tell when you’re being sincere. How to talk to each other about stress When you talk to your partner about a stressful situation, try to describe your feelings as well as the situation. Start sentences with “I feel…” and explain what the situation means to you. Tell your partner why you are upset, and what you hope will change. When your partner tells you about a stressful situation, show your support by listening properly. Put down whatever you are doing and give your full attention. Ask questions to learn more. Try summarising the problem to make sure you’ve properly understood. You could use the following guide to help with talking about problems: Explain what the problem is. Discuss it together and look for solutions. Talk about what you will each do next. Alcohol In stressful situations, we might be tempted to turn to harmful ways of managing things, like drinking too much. While alcohol can feel like an effective way to cope with stress in the moment, it’s usually more harmful in the long run – the negative effects on your mood and general health can end up causing more stress than they solve. Try to stick to other, healthier ways of improving your mood, like exercise or phoning a friend for a chat. If you’re worried that you or your partner might be using alcohol to deal with stress, have a look at our alcohol site, where you can find our free short course, ‘Coping with stress’. References [1] Lazarus & Folkman, 1984[2] Bodenmann, Meuwly, & Kayser, 2011[3] Meuwly, Bodenmann, Germann, Bradbury, Ditzen, & Heinrichs, 2012[4] Regan et al., 2014[5] Traa, De Vries, Bodenmann, & Den Oudsten, 2014[6] Falconier, Jackson, Hilpert, & Bodenmann, 2015
Article | stress, isolation
Relationships and social distancing
We’ve all found ourselves in a situation we couldn’t plan for. We know that the best thing to do is stay home and avoid contact with others as much as possible but, understandably, a lot of us will be worried about what that might mean. There are lots of tips and ideas for dealing with various aspects of the current situation, but we’re going to focus on our expertise – relationships. Our relationships with others make it easier for us to adjust to and cope with stressful situations. This article will help you find ways to look after your relationships as you switch to a new way of being, for however long that may be. Why relationships matter In a period of social distancing, normal concerns like work, family, and children can be intensified and you worry about how you will cope [1] [2]. You might be adjusting to different ways of working or facing the idea of being unable to work at all. Many of you will also be looking for ways to keep the children busy while they’re off school. On top of all of this, it feels like there’s something new to worry about every time you look at the news or social media. We don’t know what will happen, or when things will change. In the meantime, we’ve got to get on with our lives. Find an exercise community While there are many great reasons to snuggle up in front of the TV, you could see this as an opportunity to get fit. Exercise can have a positive effect on your physical and mental wellbeing [3] [4]. Under UK government guidelines, you should only exercise outside once a day. But, if you can make yourself a little space, there are no restrictions on how much exercise you can do at home. There are lots of exercise videos available online, from aerobics to yoga to Pilates to dance. Could you commit to doing a home workout three times a week? Exercising in a group can be a great way to stay well [5], so take the opportunity to search for exercise classes online. Even if you’re on your own in real life, working out with an online instructor can give you a sense of community, knowing that other people around the world are doing the same activity as you. Use technology to stay connected The internet and social media allow us to keep in touch with loved ones in a way that isn’t always possible face to face. In a period when you can’t visit or meet up with friends and family in person, make use of web chats and video calling to stay connected. Send a quick text and see who wants to book in a chat. Get yourself on Facebook, Skype, WhatsApp, FaceTime, Zoom, Houseparty, or whatever works for you, and hang out with a friend or family member for a bit. You could plan to bring a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, so it feels like you’re meeting up in real life. And, with things like Netflix Party and twoseven, you can even have long distance movie nights. Feel closer through the power of imagination Being apart from loved ones can be difficult. If you don’t live with your partner, you might be missing sex and intimacy. Even if you’ve got your immediate family at home, you might just want to hug your granny! Whoever you’re missing, you can support the relationship by staying close emotionally. It may not be easy but switching your focus to the emotional connection can be just as good for your relationship as being in the same physical space [6]. One way to hold onto this closeness is to imagine that you’re physically close. Visualising yourselves together can boost your mood [7] and make you feel closer [8]. Try this exercise, focusing on someone you want to feel closer to: Find a space where you won’t be disturbed for a few minutes. Think about the other person. Picture them somewhere safe and comfortable. Imagine that person encouraging you to feel safe, secure and comforted. What would they say? What would they do? It might sound silly but spending three minutes on this exercise can help you feel closer and more supported. Practise gratitude If you do live with your partner or your family, you might find yourselves spending lots more time together than usual, which can put extra pressure on everyone. Try this gratitude exercise, focusing on a loved one: Grab a pen and paper. Think about the person. Remember the things you’ve always loved about them. Think about what they’re doing now that you’re grateful for. Write down three things about the person that make you feel grateful. Practising gratitude can give your mood a boost [9]. Gratitude for your partner specifically can make you feel better about your relationship [10]. Learning to argue better Times of increased stress and tension can lead to more arguments at home, especially if both of you are finding it hard to cope. When you sense things getting out of hand, try to keep these basic steps in mind. STOP. When you feel an argument creeping up, pause the conversation. Agree to put it on hold until you both feel calmer. SEE IT DIFFERENTLY. Look at things from the other person’s point of view. We’re all dealing with this in our own ways and might need different kinds of support. SPEAK FOR YOURSELF. Say how you feel and ask for what you need. Instead of saying, “Stop stressing me out!”, try saying, “I get worried when you read out the headlines. Can we talk about something else for a bit?” Above all, try to keep arguments away from your children. This might be harder with everyone at home but it’s much better for children to see you sorting things out in a calm and healthy way. Getting through it You might be feeling lots of different emotions, including anger, sadness, or irritation [11]. It’s all perfectly normal. Do what you can to relieve the boredom and stay in touch with friends and family. Take up a hobby, start a book group, do some exercise, give someone a call. It all helps. While all of this feels very strange and new, there’s actually lots of evidence about what it’s like for people who have to self-isolate. It may never have been done on such a wide scale, but it’s been done. People have got through it, and you can too. Share your tips Have you learned any helpful relationship tips during social distancing? Post a comment below, or  click ‘Write a post’ to share your ideas. Extra help for dealing with uncertainty and anxiety If things are getting overwhelming, these helplines can offer support with mental health concerns like anxiety or depression. Anxiety UKSupport around anxiety. Monday to Friday, 9.30am – 5.30pm. Saturday to Sunday, 10am – 8pm.03444 775 774 MindInformation about mental health problems. Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm.0300 123 3393 References [1] Cacioppo and Hawkley, 2003[2] Leigh-Hunt, et al., 2017[3] Goodwin, 2003[4] Hyde, Maher, and Elavsky, 2013[5] Williams and Lord, 1997[6] Adams, 1986[7] Carnelley, Bejinaru, & Otway, 2018[8] Otway, Carnelly, & Rowe, 2014[9] Davis 2016[10] Parnell, 2015[11] Brooks et al., 2020
Article | family, social media, Health
Consent orders: your questions answered
1. What is a consent order? A consent order is the legal document that sets out the financial arrangements between you and your partner when you are divorcing. It can detail what will happen to property, savings, pensions or debts, and whether one of you will pay the other a regular payment to help with living costs. It can also end future financial claims against each of you by the other. It is legally binding, and the court can enforce the order if one of you does not do what is agreed. 2. Won’t our financial ties be cut when we get divorced or end our civil partnership? No. You will still be financially tied to each other, even if you have been divorced or separated for many years. If you remarry, you will forfeit your claims against your partner, and vice versa. 3. Can you get a consent order if you’re living together? No. If you live together, then you can have a separation agreement to set out what will happen to your finances. A separation agreement is different to a consent order because it is not legally binding (meaning the court can’t enforce it).If you live together and have children, then you can still claim child maintenance from your partner. Find out more here on the government website. 4.What else does the court need to sign off a consent order? For the court to sign off your consent order you will need to provide the following;A. A financial snapshot of your assets, debts, pensions and income for you, your ex and any children you have together. This is called a ‘statement of information’ or form D81. The figures you’ll need to include are: the equity in any property, savings, investments business assets, pensions, and your income after tax (net).B. Details of how you’ll divide the finances and arrange any child or spousal maintenance and pension sharing details. This is called the Financial Remedy Order (or Order, or Consent Order). This document will need to be drafted by a trained legal professional.C. If you are sharing or splitting a pension, you will also need a Pension Sharing Order (called Penson Sharing Annex, form P1) that sets out how much pension will be shared between you. This is a separate document to your consent order and will need to be sent to your pension company along with your sealed consent order.D. You will need to complete a Form A, to ask the court to consider your finances.E. It is also advisable to send an explanation to the court about how and why you’ve come to that agreement. You have to demonstrate that you understand how the law works in relation to marital assets. 5. When do you get a consent order? You can apply for a consent order either at the same time as divorcing or dissolving your civil partnership or after your divorce or dissolution. You cannot get a consent order before starting your divorce or dissolution proceeding. The earliest opportunity that you’ll be able to submit your financial agreement to the court is at Decree Nisi stage. 6. Can a judge turn down a consent order? Yes. If a judge feels the arrangement is unfair on one person, the order will be rejected. Sometimes a judge will ask for more information and you can write a letter of explanation. At other times the judge may order a short hearing to hear from both of you as to why you feel your settlement is fair.   7. What is a clean break consent order? It’s a type of consent order used if there are no finances to sort out now but you want to end all future claims against each other. This is usually used if you don’t have any finances to sort out, or if you have already split your finances. You will still both need to give the court a snapshot of your finances (the financial disclosure). 8. Can I do a consent order myself? No, not unless you’re legally trained. Nowadays. It is relatively straightforward to file a divorce online via the government’s website, but you do need to be legally trained to draw up the legal documentation that makes up a consent order. 9. Do you need a solicitor or lawyer to divorce? No. If you’ve already agreed on what you want to do or even if you need some help with negotiating your finances, you don’t have to involve lawyers if you don’t want to. There are plenty of divorce services companies who offer consent order services. However, if you’d like to know what you’re entitled to, or if there are any danger signs (e.g. hiding assets, or domestic violence) then you should protect yourself by getting a good divorce lawyer. You can find a list of family law and divorce law professionals at Resolution. 10. How much does it cost to get a consent order? The range of getting a consent order starts from hundreds of pounds, but can go all the way up to hundreds of thousands if you’re not in agreement and end up in court. There is also a £50 court fee for filing a consent order. If you need help deciding what route is best suited to your personal situation, get free divorce advice from our partners at amicable.
Article | divorce, consent orders
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 | course, GIRFC
8 10 items
Pornography: your questions answered
We get lots of posts about pornography and masturbation. Many of you are worried about what it means if your partner uses pornography, or if masturbation might be reason you’re not getting as much sex as you might like. We’ve had a look at the science behind pornography and the effects it can have on your relationship, and we’ve answered some of your questions below. Is pornography bad for my relationship? This depends on your opinion of it. If you have a problem with pornography in general, then it’s unlikely you’re going to be OK with your partner watching it. This can have a negative impact on your relationship [1]. One way pornography can affect your relationship quality is by diminishing your self-esteem. If you aren’t happy about the idea of your partner using pornography, it can make you feel like you don’t matter in the relationship, or that you aren’t good enough. If you don’t mind pornography, or if your self-esteem is very robust, then it’s less likely to have a negative impact on your relationship [2]. Can pornography reduce sexual desire? Watching pornography doesn’t seem to reduce sexual desire. According to one study, pornography doesn’t take away your sexual urges, so it’s unlikely that this would be the reason a partner seems less interested in sex [3]. For more ideas on why sex might be off the table, check out our tips on being in a sexless relationship. Can we watch pornography together? Several studies have shown that couples who watch pornography together can experience improvements in their sex lives [3] [4]. As a shared activity, it can encourage you to talk about sex, creating a more open atmosphere for you to discuss your sexual desires and fantasies. While it’s important to remember that pornography doesn’t always present a realistic picture of sex, it can sometimes be a springboard for talking about what you like and don’t like [5]. How can we use pornography to talk about our relationship? Be open and honest about pornography. If you like using it, talk to your partner about why. If you don’t like it, let your partner know where you stand. These might not be the easiest conversations to start, but they can have a positive effect on your relationship by allowing you to learn more about each other. This can improve your sex life and may help make your general communication easier – couples who find a way to talk about their sexual desires in this way can even strengthen their relationship quality overall [6]. You may find that starting a dialogue around this helps you to be more open to experimentation, with a more varied and satisfying sex life. You can learn about each other’s likes and dislikes and talk about how happy you both are with the level of intimacy in your relationship [6]. Can’t I just use pornography alone? Yes, you can. However, it’s worth being aware that using pornography alone can lead to a decrease in sexual communication between you and your partner [6]. When sexual activity becomes secretive, sexual communication can too. Is there such a thing as ethical pornography? This is a tricky one, and a good question to ask yourself. While looking at pornography can be a healthy activity within your relationship, it’s important to think about where it comes from. You may not have considered whether the performers were paid for their work or even whether they have consented to do everything you’re seeing. It’s not always easy to find ethical material, or to know the background of the things you do find. One place to start might be the Toronto International Porn Festival, which has strict guidelines around its submission policy and encourages a diversity of sexual interests. It’s up to you and your partner to decide what you think is acceptable but, if you’re unsure about the ethics of a particular piece, the best advice is don’t watch it.   References [1] Maas, M. K., et al. (2018). A Dyadic Approach to Pornography Use and Relationship Satisfaction Among Heterosexual Couples: The Role of Pornography Acceptance and Anxious Attachment. The Journal of Sex Research, 55(6). 772–782. [2] Stewart, D., & Szymanski, N. (2012). Young Adult Women’s Reports of Their Male Romantic Partner’s Pornography Use as a Correlate of Their Self-Esteem, Relationship Quality, and Sexual Satisfaction. Sex Roles, 67(5), 257-271. [3] Brown, C., Carroll, C., Yorgason, J., Busby, S., Willoughby, J., & Larson, B. (2017). A Common-Fate Analysis of Pornography Acceptance, Use, and Sexual Satisfaction Among Heterosexual Married Couples. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 46(2), 575-584. [4] Maddox, A., Rhoades, M., & Markman, G. (2011). Viewing Sexually-Explicit Materials Alone or Together: Associations with Relationship Quality. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40(2), 441-448. [5] Daneback, K., Træen, B., & Månsson, S. (2009). Use of Pornography in a Random Sample of Norwegian Heterosexual Couples. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38(5), 746-753. [6] Kohut, T., Balzarini, R., Fisher, W., Campbell, L., Impett, E., & Muise, A. (2018). Pornography’s associations with open sexual communication and relationship closeness vary as a function of dyadic patterns of pornography use within heterosexual relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 35(4), 655-676.
Article | pornography, masturbation
Parenting courses and disabled children
When you’re a parent of a disabled child, it’s wise to take as much help as you can get. There may be more support on offer than you realise, so speak to everyone who might be able to help – your child’s GP and other clinical professionals, your local children’s services, the school, and even friends or family who might know what’s available in the area. There is still a lot of stigma around parenting support. As a proud parent, you might be tempted to talk yourself into thinking that you don’t need it or shouldn’t accept it. However, when embarking on the most important job you will ever do, you might as well take whatever help is on offer. Seeking support isn’t a sign of weakness – it’s a smart, practical choice to help yourself be the best parent you can. If you’ve been asked to do a parenting course, it can feel like you’re being judged. Many parents worry that their parenting skills are being called into question, or that their child is in trouble – try to remember that parenting programmes are designed to support you in developing the positive skills you already have. They can help you deal with stress and improve your and your partner’s relationship with your child and with each other. If you can get onto a programme with specific content for your child’s needs, you may find content that’s especially relevant, but a general parenting course can still help. For lots of parents of disabled children, attending parenting programmes helps to create a sense of stability. Having a specific course of action mapped out can give you a feeling of security which can help your child to feel more confident too [1]. Personal empowerment  A parenting programme can also have a positive effect on how you feel, alleviating some of the stress in your life, and helping you to feel better about your role as a parent. One study found that parents of disabled children felt more empowered and more empathetic after undertaking a specialist parenting programme [2]. Disabled children may be more likely to display behaviour that challenges than non-disabled children as they may have no other way of communicating that they are distressed or unhappy. As a parent, you may feel very alone, and worried about the best approach to take. Getting expert help through a parenting class can help alleviate your concerns, and it can be a relief to discover that other parents are facing the same issues. If you are dealing with behaviour issues, you can also read Contact’s guide Understanding your child’s behaviour. Family support If you can’t get access to an appropriate parenting programme, or don’t feel comfortable attending a generic one, you can still get support from friends and family – you don’t have to do everything on your own. Caring for a child with additional needs can be physically and emotionally exhausting, especially when tackled alone, so don’t hesitate to call on your social support network. Parents of disabled children cope better when they work together as a family unit. Having a strong group dynamic can actively strengthen the resilience of each individual family member [3]. This means that you, if you are the main caregiver, can benefit from the combined strength of your partner, your parents, and other family members. Lean on whoever is available. Accept help when it’s offered, ask for it when it’s not, and build a strong unit of support around your family. Short breaks Of course, not all families have good relationships. Sometimes, the arrival of a disabled child or the realisation that an older child has a disability, can add to already strained relations. Other family members may go through the same emotions as parents – including anger, grief and denial – and some find it hard to move on and accept the situation. Even if you feel disappointed by the support you receive from family members, there are practical services which may be available to give you the chance of a real break and to make time for you and your relationship. ‘Short breaks’, which ensure a disabled child or adult is cared for while the main carer has a break, may include: Overnight care in the family home or elsewhere. Daytime care in the family home or elsewhere. Educational or leisure activities for disabled children and young people outside their homes. Services available to assist carers in the evenings, at weekends and during the school holidays. Most breaks are arranged by social services – the department in your local authority, which is responsible for providing help to meet the needs of disabled children and adults. Usually, social services will need to assess your child and the family’s needs before services can be arranged but getting a break can be a lifeline for some relationships. For more information about getting a break, see Contact’s guide, Services and support from your local authority – England. If you can’t access short breaks, you can ask your local Family Information Service about local organisations offering relaxation sessions for carers, as well as activities in the holidays and at weekends for you, your disabled child and any siblings.   References [1] Nelson, P., Kirk, S., Caress, A., & Glenny, A. (2012). Parents' Emotional and Social Experiences of Caring for a Child Through Cleft Treatment. Qualitative Health Research, 22(3), 346-359. [2] Burton, R., Zwahr-Castro, S., Magrane, J., Hernandez, C., Farley, L., & Amodei, H. (2018). The Nurturing Program: An Intervention for Parents of Children with Special Needs. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 27(4), 1137-1149. [3] Suzuki, Hiratani, Mizukoshi, Hayashi, & Inagaki. (2018). Family resilience elements alleviate the relationship between maternal psychological distress and the severity of children’s developmental disorders. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 83, 91-98.
Article | disability, parenting
Community posts
“Drowning: love, sex and marriage”
There are a few things going on in my life at the moment and I need help to just sort my head out. It all started two years ago. Me and my boyfriend found out that I was unexpectedly pregnant. At the time we were not practically able to have a baby – didn’t have full time jobs, a place to live etc. despite the fact that I would love to be a mom. So, after deciding together what we would do, on my 21st birthday I had an abortion (at which time he went out of the country for the football). This knocked me for six. More than either of us realised at the time. It’s only looking back that I can see that this was the start of a downward spiral for me. I changed and just began to notice everything. I noticed how he wasn’t there then on a day that I needed him. I noticed how he never complimented me or said nice things about me. I noticed how when we spoke or were sat at the dining room table, he wouldn’t look at me. I just became down and felt worthless, like I had to beg for his attention, and this is spanning over the two years since the abortion. We have had numerous conversations about how I feel in our relationship, to the point now where he says I am just hurting him. Needless to say, I started to notice how other people would make me feel better about myself. Notice how other guys would make me feel happy and build me up. I began to feel wanted, important, attractive via other people. I didn’t mean for it to happen, I don’t necessarily regret it happening either, but I had an affair. This guy is amazing. We were friends before the affair and I’ve always had a thing for him. He is my go to, my best friend. He makes me feel supported, loved, wanted, sexy – everything and more. He knows everything about me. It started out as just a bit of fun, both of us getting something from each other that we weren’t getting in our relationships, but then it soon became more. A year and six months later, I’m head over heels for him. Here’s the catch. He has been married for a year and has a child. He says he can’t leave because of the child, that he is happy with his life despite the fact that he loves me and wants to be with me in ways he can’t. I know I need to get over him and let him go because, no matter how tough it is, he does have a choice and that evidently isn’t us. He has told me how if he didn’t have his child then things would be different, but ultimately the child comes first (which I don’t knock him for). My issue is letting go. There so much other stuff going on in my life as well at this point. With lockdown suspending normal life, I’m not working so just stuck in the house. My mom has been institutionalised and is on suicide watch. I’m also noticing how she can be emotionally abusive towards my dad too. I just can’t deal with it all right now, I’m nearly at breaking point. Can anybody slap some sense into me?
User article | abortion, affair, lockdown
“Husband treats me like a housemate”
I would really love to hear from anyone else who is going or has gone through what I have been experiencing for the past year. I have been with my husband for 29 years. Suddenly last June he started acting strangely; he was moody and irritable with me. I just knew something was wrong. When I asked him he suddenly came out with loads of things he hadn't been happy about over the years, blaming me for everything that had gone wrong in our lives, telling me I had had my own way all these years (when to my mind we had made decisions together), saying I had held him back because he wanted to "see the world" whereas I was reluctant to fly long haul. This was all a big shock, and very upsetting. Prior to that everything was great - the kids had left home and we were finally free to do whatever we wanted to do. He decided he needed to get away to clear his head, and flew off to Portugal by himself for a week. When he came back he told me he did want to make things work; however, nothing had changed with regard to his attitude and he did absolutely nothing to make our relationship better. For the next few months he continued to just leave and fly off to Portugal, only letting me know he was going literally as he was walking out the door, not telling me where he was staying, or even when he would be back. This was all really worrying for me and our daughters. All the time he was away we barely heard from him; he would just send a one word reply if we messaged to ask if he was OK. Every time he came back he told me he wanted to make things work but, again, made no effort whatsoever to make things better. He avoids coming anywhere near me: he literally hasn't touched me even with a fingertip for over a year now. We have separate rooms. He won't go anywhere with me, even to the supermarket. It makes me feel disgusting, unattractive, unlovable etc. He only really talks about how he's feeling when he's had a few glasses of red wine, and at those times he says he feels like a failure, that he hasn't provided as he should. We do not own our house due to various reasons, but he is blaming me for this which I feel is unjustified. He has always been someone who does exactly what he wants when he wants to do it, yet he is accusing me of saying no to things and saying he just went along with things to keep me happy. I think that he had really wanted to do these things, he would have done them. I have asked him to see a therapist; he is reluctant to do this, saying he doesn't believe in "all that". He doesn't open up easily at the best of times and so would probably not be a willing participant; however even that can't be done at the moment due to Covid. He says he doesn't want to speak to some online or on the phone. I feel like he is making excuses and just doesn't want to do it. My gut feeling is that he doesn't love me anymore but doesn't want to admit it. He has no money that I am aware of and so couldn't afford to rent his own place, and I think he is just not leaving me because of that. We are stuck her like housemates, just eating dinner together and then he goes off to his room. He can be quite chatty, but only about current affairs, what is happening with the kids, what is happening with the cats, what's on TV at the moment, NEVER about our situation. I love him and want this to work, but if I am right that he doesn't love me, he needs to leave me and let me move on. If anyone has any advice on how to deal with this I would be grateful. I go through so many different emotions every day - sometimes I'm sad, sometimes I'm angry, sometimes I feel sorry for him, sometimes I'm lonely, the list goes on. If you have read all of this, thank you for your patience!
User article | sexless, communication
“He isn't interested in sex”
My boyfriend and I have been together for 1.5 years. Everything in our relationship is perfect except the lack of sex, which is now really affecting my mood and my self-esteem. We moved in together about four months ago and since then we have sex less and less regularly. We went from twice a week before living together to once a week and now its once every 10 days or two weeks. I know it could be worse but we're still new in the relationship and we're still young (27 and 35). I know he had a very active sex life before our relationship and that just makes me feel worse because it's not like he doesn't like sex. He's waiting on a surgery for an issue which can sometimes hurt him when he gets a hard on. I have always been very understanding of this and have not pushed for sex because I never knew when he would be sore. He has often gone soft during sex or not been able to get hard at all and said it was due to this issue. But now I've found out he is watching porn nearly everyday. So how does getting a hard on for a perfect girl with perfect tits and an ass on your screen not hurt you but trying to have sex with your girlfriend does? When we do have sex there is not little or nor foreplay no real affection no change of positions and he never last longer than minutes so I end up finishing myself off after. It's really hurt my feelings and is making me wonder what is wrong with me! Why would you choose porn over your girlfriend who has made it very clear she is up and willing for it whenever? I need some advice if anybody has any because I don't know what to do.
User article | sexless, pornography
“Shrouded by confusion”
To start, I will apologize for the lengthy post, as this dates back several years. My wife and I have been married for almost seven years, but our relationship has been in deep, deep water for over five. Before our first child was born, we had what I refer to as typical married couple problems. The honeymoon stage faded and we (so I thought) were getting comfortable with one another. I was mistaken on the we part, I suppose. She was overly demanding about us going back into the honeymoon stage, which is fine, I understood. It was shortly after everything became unhinged. We fought a lot. I was convinced I had done a great wrong to her, and I was trying to atone for it. Things steadily went downhill. She started going out with friends. No problem there, I trusted her and I am by no means controlling. However, she didn't come home. I would stay up all night, calling and texting and calling some more (she had a daughter from a previous relationship of whom we solely took care of, so I couldn't just go off looking for her). I would spend the whole night, and morning, pacing, worried to death until I had to start worrying about what to do with our daughter so I could go to work. She would show up sometime about 30 minutes before I had to leave. Usually by means of someone dropping her off at the corner up the road and her walking home. Big red flag right? She said nothing happened she got too drunk and stayed at (insert name here)'s house. I fought my gut and trusted her. It happened more times than I can count. Until we finally decided to take some time apart and work on ourselves. The agreement, initiated by her, that we were not seeing other people, was verbal. I do my best to cope and just try to take care of myself and my daughter (stepdaughter, who I consider my own). She started coming around more, which was showing me that we are trying to make this work again. Then I started hearing things from people I interact with at my job. Started seeing things as well. For instance, I seen my wife walk out of a random house at 7 am, in her pajamas, walking home. I confronted her about it and bluntly asked if she was seeing other guys. Denial is all I ever got from her. At this point nothing was adding up, nothing at all. However right or wrong it was, I needed answers, and I had a huge gut feeling that she wasn't being honest, so I abducted her phone and I found all the answers I needed. She had slept with a guy named T, of course deleted most of the messages, but there was enough there to tell me. I confront her, again. The argument ended in the "don't do it again" category. That was guy #1. We were "back together" now. At least that was what we had said to one another. Things started getting fishy again very quickly. She was going to the movies with a friend, who is much younger than my wife, that she never hung out with, and much more suspicious activity. The staying out all night thing happened some more too. So again, right or wrong, I looked to her phone again, and sat crying for over three hours after. Not only was she sleeping with someone else again, but she was starting a relationship with him. Going on dates, kissing, holding hands, etc. Which I found that she had lied about who she went to the movies with, no surprise. That was guy #3 (yes 3, I didn't skip 2, I just didn't know about him, yet). STILL, I took her back. I know probably my biggest mistake, but no doubt I love this woman. Very much. I was very conflicted at this point. Very. My confliction was put to the side, we were about to have my first daughter. Almost a couple of years pass. Some of the shady stuff didn't stop, and I was at the point of where I couldn't trust her anymore. I expressed over and over what I needed for this relationship to work. She was still going out, sometimes not coming home until 3 am. STILL, I stayed. I was not who I was before, I was depressed and anxiety was taking over most of the time, but I made the best out of what family I had. After almost two years go by, I found out about guy #2, in a pretty bad way. I didn't abduct her phone this time, instead I seen a message from a J, saying "so she may be mine?" You probably already know by now that the conversation was about my recently born daughter and her telling him that she could be his. Stake to the heart, twist a bit, get the splinters in there realllllll good. It wasn't the fact that she slept with him, or even the nature of the conversation that hurt the most. It was the why. Why, after all this time? Why when I was starting to have a bit more faith in our relationship? (the fact that she could not be mine, hurt, but it matters not, DNA match or not, she is my daughter. I still don't know the answer to that question). It's as if all those years ago she took a knife and cut me, very deeply. Over the years she just kept slicing at the same wound, so it never healed. I shut down. Emotionally. I was cold as ice, I lost complete control. To put this in perspective, my wife was on her knees crying and begging me to not go, even mentioned suicide a few times in that moment, I walked away without a word. If anyone knew me, that is not me at all. I STILL didn't go anywhere. I just slept in a different room for while. I'll flash forward a bit and sum this part up. We had another daughter who is going on 3 now. (so three daughters; 3, 4 and 12). Some shady stuff happened still. I was out of town for work for a week, and I happened to see a dude leaving my house at 3 am on my cameras at home. (I had them set for motion trigger from 8 pm to 8 am). I finally go get help, from a shrink. After a few sessions, I had some breakthroughs. I cried again, for the first time in a couple years. That day, that very day, that I felt like I could be myself again. She told me she was dating another man. For how long? I don't know. Back to devastation. I was completely broken all over again. The whole separation was nasty. I wasn't very nice, I was angry. Time went by. I started talking to and eventually dating someone new. I wasn't happy, but it was worth a shot. My wife started coming around more, being overly nice to me and eventually begged me to try again. I told her no the first time. However, I was not happy with where I was, so I ended the other relationship, and yep, like a fool, I tried again. This was sometime last year. The guy she was with kept coming back one way or another, even after I expressed that I needed her to cut ties with him. Selfish? Maybe. That's what I needed though, and she didn't. She met him at a hotel and ignored me all night. I told her I loved her that night and never got a response. We went to the movies together, drove separate cars. After the movie, I thought I would stop by her place for a bit. She's not there. So I thought I would check where she worked at, because she will go there to hang out sometime. Nope. My house. Nope. His house. Yep. There's her car. I called her immediately, over and over and over, until she finally answered. This was almost two hours later. I asked her if she was at his house, and she lied to me, again and again. Even after I told her I seen her car (which is very distinguishable), she lied. I kept at it until she finally admitted it. But I was wrong for "following" her. She swears that she didn't even go inside. Right. I went through her phone a few times and never liked what I found. *ick pics, sexual conversations between her and multiple guys. One was the guy that I had seen walking out of my house on camera at 3 am. Which is funny to me, because the date he was in my house, is about the same time my youngest daughter was conceived. So all caught up, mostly. Here I am, now, emotionally a wreck and so conflicted about, well, everything. Do I have any biological kids? Why am I still doing this to myself? I love this woman, obviously, more than I could ever describe, but I'm hanging really closely on the side of this is done. She is still talking to other guys. One was just last week. He messaged her showing interest in her, and she just messaged back. There was nothing sexual or whatnot. However, he wanted her to call him and she did. The thing that bothers me, is that she did not decline, maybe she didn't accept either, but the fact she didn't say no I'm trying to work things out with my husband really really bothers me. I'm just really stuck in a rut and I have no idea what to do. I'm so back and forth, one day to the next.
User article | cheating, affair
“Why does he prefer porn?”
I’ve been with my bf for three years. We’ve had many ups and downs but a reoccurring problem is that I feel like he has always preferred watching porn instead of actually having sex with me. We have always had good sex but from the very beginning I noticed he never really climaxed during sex. There was always periods of time where I noticed we just weren’t having sex at all. He didn’t try to initiate or even seem interested at all. About a year in I discovered he was watching porn daily. Not only that but he had a whole account where he was trying to interact with other woman. Of course I was hurt. On top of that he was watching categories of woman that were the total opposite of me (body type/race). This really took a toll on me but eventually we moved past it. I’ll admit it’s something that was always in the back of my head. I always knew he was watching porn and I didn’t really let it get to me because I told myself it was normal and all guys do it and even I watch it sometimes. Fast forward, the past couple of months our sex life has really just gone to shit. At the beginning of the year I caught him trying to talk to another girl through social media. The following month I saw he posted something on Craigslist looking for his “first ebony experience” You can only imagine how that made me feel. Again I let it slide! And from then on I noticed the decline in his sexual interest with me. I brought it to his attention after weeks of not having sex. I literally broke down in tears but it didn’t change much. He told me I should just deal with it. We forgot about it because we found out I was pregnant. We haven’t had sex in two months. Besides a couple days ago where we did it for likeone 1 minute and then we just stopped. ( He then proceeded to go finish himself in the other room) He watches it every day even when I’m in the next room. He says he’s using the bathroom or showering. He even does it multiple times a day. He probably doesn’t think I know but I go through his phone and there it is everyday. First thing he does when he wakes up. Sometimes I do think I am over reacting and I try not to let it bother me but at the end of the day it does. It might just be because I’m pregnant and hormonal but I’ve never felt so insecure or undesirable before. I see my body changing every day and it hurts me to know that he prefers to look at other woman than his own girlfriend. Everything else in our relationship is fine. He tells me he loves me everyday but I am really unsatisfied with our sex life. I’m only 21 so I never imagined myself having this type of problem. Sometimes I cry myself to sleep because I don’t understand what I’m doing wrong or what’s wrong with me. I really love him but I’m getting so fed up and contemplating ending the relationship but being pregnant only makes it so much harder because I can’t only think of myself now. I don’t really know what to do at this point. I’d appreciate any honestly answers and opinions.
User article | pornography
“I don't trust his best friend”
My boyfriend, we'll call him Bob, is not from Ireland and frequently complains about not having that many friends in this country. He has a best friend who is his ex (not exactly his ex, she was with him a lot while she had a boyfriend, they used to video chat where she would strip for him etc..). She is in another country now. She has no problems with cheating until she gets married (she sounds like someone who is lacking morals, and just a person I wouldn't get along with). She apparently messed him up a lot and now he doubts himself. Bob and I started dating and his "ex", we'll call her Sarah, would text him things such as "use her (me) to get experience then come show me what you learned etc." He tells me he put her in her place and said he's with me now and that he loves me. Now Bob claims Sarah has changed and respects our relationship (I don't believe this). He says he doesn't have many people here so he likes having her as a best friend. I've noticed he is reluctant to open messages from her around me, and if she calls he'll go into the other room. He then tells me what she wanted etc. He promises me that nothing is there anymore between them. I really am uncomfortable with their relationship and I've said so before. Bob then tells me that he loves me and that nothing is going on. Am I just becoming jealous? I've never been a jealous person before but now I actually can't stand Sarah and have a horrible feeling every time Bob brings her up.
User article | trust, jealousy