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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
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Managing handovers with your ex-partner
If you are feeling awkward or upset at the prospect of facing your ex, then handovers can be very difficult. You may have to exercise some self-control just to stay calm.If you still have very raw feelings about your ex, you may be tempted to use handovers as an opportunity to speak your mind. Keep in mind that children are very sensitive to the feelings and attitudes around them and that they will pick up on conflict between their parents. For your children’s sakes, it’s important to try and make handovers as pleasant as possible.Some handover etiquette: Be courteous. Turn up on time - let the other parent know if you are delayed. Make sure the children have everything they need. Keep difficult conversations away from the children. If you are struggling with this, consider alternative ways of managing the handovers so that your children are protected. Dealing with change over time Transitions are difficult for everyone, especially in the early days. Coming face-to-face with your ex and saying goodbye to your children can bring up some very difficult feelings. It can help to have something planned for the time immediately following the handover so that you can remain upbeat. While it’s hard now, you may eventually come to value the opportunity to have some space to yourself.Children have their own feelings to cope with at handover time. They will need time to settle down, adjust to being in a different home, and get used to their mum or dad not being there. Transitions can be sad reminders to children that their parents aren't together anymore and it's not unusual for young children to come home from a weekend with the other parent in a bad mood. Understanding this can help you manage your expectations, and cope with any changes in your child's behaviour.Follow this link for further information on children in the middle after separation.
Article | parenting apart, ex-partner
1 2 min read
Children and non-resident parents
Children benefit from being in regular contact with their non-resident parents but the frequency and quality of this contact can decline over time. A research paper published by The Ministry of Justice looked into the how a child's wellbeing is affected by the relationship they have with the parent they don’t live with. The report also looked at the courts’ involvement in settling contact and financial arrangements and the impact these can have on a child’s outcomes as they grow up. The study followed a group of children whose parents had separated by the time they were seven years old. It looked at levels of court involvement in parental separation, and the frequency and quality of the contact between the children and the non-resident parents. Researchers then looked at outcomes for children when they were aged eleven, paying particular attention to: Subjective wellbeing (children’s moods and emotions). Antisocial behaviours, like drinking, smoking, or breaking the law. Social and behavioural problems. How good they were at making decisions around risky behaviour. Contact declines over time According to the report, the level of contact between children and their non-resident parents tends to decline over time, in terms of both frequency and quality. Among children of separated parents, the ones that had the best outcomes at age eleven were those who had had the most contact with their non-resident parents. This can be harder to manage if you’re struggling financially, but it’s important to try and maintain regular quality time together. Even after a separation, you and your ex-partner continue to have a relationship as co-parents, so it’s really important to look after this relationship in as supportive a way as possible. Put your children first and, wherever safe, try to ensure they spend time with both parents. If you’re a non-resident parent and you feel like you don’t get enough time with your children, there are a few helpful things you can work on: Try to resolve your differences with your ex-partner, using external support like mediation where necessary. If you can’t resolve your differences, try to keep your disputes and conflict away from the children. Draw up a parenting plan. Stick to the agreed arrangements, particularly if these have been agreed by the courts. Use the time you do have together to work on developing a bond with your child. You may not love your child’s other parent anymore – you may even resent them or be angry with them – but maintaining contact can protect your child against the negative effects of separation. It might be necessary to set your own feelings aside, at least in the beginning.
Article | contact, non-resident
0 3 min read
Parents with disabled children: separated families
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Collection | disability
If you have any children with disabilities, you are likely to face some unique challenges as a family. If you and your partner separate, these challenges will change shape as you step into a new co-parenting relationship.
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Considering separation as new parents
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Collection | NP, separation
If you're in the pregnancy phase, or if you've just had a child, you may be facing some unique relationship challenges.
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Co-parenting a disabled child
All relationships go through periods of change and challenge. Some parents find these experiences bring them closer together, while others are overwhelmed by the experience and struggle to stay together. If things have broken down and you have decided to separate, we have some hints and tips to help you carry on caring for your child, whether you live with them or not.No longer living under the same roof as your children will inevitably affect the level of contact you have with them and it will usually be necessary to agree contact arrangements with your former partner. Legally, a person with parental responsibility cannot be denied contact with their child without the intervention of the courts. Of course, it will usually be best if both parents can discuss and agree appropriate arrangements informally. You’ll need to work together with your ex to ensure you can provide the full support your child needs from both parents. Parental involvement is one of the most important factors in how disabled children integrate into school and social life [4] and non-resident parents play an important role in this [5]. As separated parents, working together makes you more effective at providing a responsive parenting role, and more likely to have a better relationship with your child [6].This kind of collaboration between separated parents is known as co-parenting. Communicating with your ex For some parents, having to maintain contact with one another and sort out arrangements for the children can be a huge strain. If you’re still upset with your ex-partner, you may be finding it difficult to communicate with them. However, it’s important to try and set your disagreements aside long enough to get your living arrangements in order and make a collaborative parenting plan that means your child has a stable environment or environments where they can get the best possible support from both of you [3]. Here are some tips to help you communicate with your ex and protect your children from any fallout from the separation:   avoid blaming yourself or your partner agree not to let your own relationship issues get into the discussion create some rules together about how best to manage meetings continue at another time if you feel discussions sliding into tricky waters don’t communicate with your partner through your child focus on child-related issues; it can help keep your dialogue clear and to the point work on a parenting plan together don’t argue with your partner about the children in front of them. This will only increase their sense of guilt and blame about the break up. Supporting your children Helping your child through a period of separation or divorce is challenging as you come to terms with your own feelings. But there are things you can do that can help. Keeping children informed about what is happening will help to prevent them blaming themselves and worrying unnecessarily. You can help children feel more secure by helping them to express their feelings, letting them know that you understand how they feel, and making sure they feel they can ask questions if they want to, will help. Children often feel a great sense of loss and letting them grieve is an important part of helping them to deal with the situation and to move on to accept the changes in their family relationships. They may also express anger towards you, whilst this can be hurtful, try not to take it too personally as it can be a sign they are finding it hard to cope. Denial is also a common response. A child will naturally have hopes and fantasies about the family, such as wanting you all to be reunited. Talking about these feelings, without raising false hopes, will help your child to move on. Avoid criticising your ex-partner in front of the children. It can be very upsetting for them and leave them feeling forced to take sides. Mothers and fathers Research has shown that mothers and fathers of disabled children can experience stress differently. Mothers’ stress tends to be focused around the daily caring tasks [7], while fathers are more likely to worry about their emotional attachment with the child [8]. If you are the parent with the main caring duties, you may need to ask for some extra support from friends and family to help you stay on top of daily care. If you are the non-resident parent, you may want to schedule in regular phone calls between visits to help stay in touch and maintain the connection with your child. Working together As a co-parent, you still have a parenting role to perform, even if you don’t live with your child. While you may not be in a couple relationship anymore, you and your child’s other parent will need to maintain a co-operative parenting relationship to give your child the maximum benefit of your care. If you are the resident parent, part of your role will be to share information with your child’s other parent and, assuming it is safe and meets any court requirements in place, ensure that they have access to your child. While it can be hard to let your ex-partner into your routines, it’s important to be open and welcoming for the sake of your child, particularly when there is important information to share about medical care and other additional needs [1]. Face-to-face visits are the best way to maintain good quality parent-child relationships but if you live a long way away from your child, frequent contact through emails, phone calls, or video calls can help make up for some of this distance [9]. Staying in touch with your ex can also help you plan for unexpected events, like your child leaving something they need at the other parent’s home. You don’t necessarily have to spend intensive time together, as long as you both commit to the agreed arrangements and stay in touch about important decisions. If you are struggling to maintain a good relationship with your child’s other parent, you can use the free parenting plan at Splitting Up? Put Kids First to keep on top of parenting arrangements without having to interact directly. References [1] Newacheck, P. W., Inkelas, M., & Kim, S. E. (2004). Health services use and health care expenditures for children with disabilities. Pediatrics, 114(1), 79-85. [2] Roberts, K., & Lawton, D. (2001). Acknowledging the extra care parents give their disabled children. Child: care, health and development, 27(4), 307-319. [3] Shandra, C. L., Hogan, D. P., & Spearin, C. E. (2008). Parenting a child with a disability: An examination of resident and non-resident fathers. Journal of Population Research, 25(3), 357-377. [4] Pascall, G., & Hendey, N. (2004). Disability and transition to adulthood: the politics of parenting. Critical Social Policy, 24(2), 165-186. [5] Amato, P. R., & Gilbreth, J. G. (1999). Nonresident fathers and children's well-being: A meta-analysis. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 557-573. [6] Sobolewski, J. M., & King, V. (2005). The importance of the coparental relationship for nonresident fathers’ ties to children. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67(5), 1196-1212. [7] Pelchat, D., Lefebvre, H., & Perreault, M. (2003). Differences and similarities between mothers’ and fathers’ experiences of parenting a child with a disability. Journal of child health care, 7(4), 231-247. [8] Cohen, M. S. (1999). Families coping with childhood chronic illness: A research review. Families, Systems, & Health, 17(2), 149. [9] McGene, J., & King, V. (2012). Implications of new marriages and children for coparenting in nonresident father families. Journal of family issues, 33(12), 1619-1641.
Article | co-parenting, parenting apart
0 5 min read
Agreeing on medical treatment
What is happening? For many separated parents, as their relationship with their partner comes to an end, their parental partnership continues forward. Even if there’s no love (or at least, no romantic love) left between one another as parents, the shared love for your child remains and grows. But of course, such parental partnerships are rarely easy or straightforward, and for many parents of disabled children, extra stresses and complexities are likely to pop up. These can cause friction and disagreements.These disagreements will vary parent to parent, often depending on the condition of the child. But, according to research, the two main points of disagreement for separated parents of disabled children are [1]: The medical treatment their child’s needs The educational approach for their learning needs “If parents disagree on treatment or educational approaches for their special needs child, separation and/or divorce usually magnify these differences.”[1]                                                                                  In other words, if you struggled to agree on these subjects when you were a couple, there's a good chance it will be harder to agree when you're separated.  How can I help? If your child’s medical treatment is being discussed with a doctor, a specialist, or healthcare member, make sure that you encourage one another to attend appointments together wherever possible. It can be helpful to carry the mind-set that your partnership needs work and effort in the same way that your relationship once did. So, if it feels uncomfortable to attend medical and healthcare meetings together, it may be worth pushing through the awkwardness and the tension for the sake of improving the partnership. Consider using an online parenting plan with your ex-partner, and choose one that allows you to customise it for specific issues. Parenting plans like “Splitting Up? Put Kids First” will allow you to choose your own category, e.g. “Medical treatment for our child”, where you can write down your suggestions and proposals. Your partner would then respond and either agree or disagree with what you’ve put forward. Eventually, you can reach joint decisions and make agreements while keeping emotions and friction to a minimum. Whether you’re talking face-to-face, via a parenting plan or through a series of texts, try to place a real emphasis on respecting one another and using clear communication. It’s going to be difficult to separate your emotions, but your child and your parental partnership with your ex will benefit from your efforts.     If you’re going through a separation or a divorce, you can help to minimise the negative effects that separation can cause on your child’s development and well-being by focussing on the partnership with your ex-partner and the shared love of your child. And, by being active and finding ways to work together as a partnership, your ex-partner may be more responsive and agreeable, knowing how much you want to make the parent partnership work. References: [1] Pickar, Daniel B., and Robert L. Kaufman. “Parenting Plans for Special Needs Children: Applying a Risk-Assessment Model.” Family Court Review 53, no. 1 (January 1, 2015): 113–33.
Article | disability, parenting
0 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
0 4 min read