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Raising a baby after a breakup
Raising a baby with your ex-partner is unlikely to be something you ever planned for. But, if you and your partner have separated while your child is still very young, you’ll need to find a way to make things work so that you can get on with the job of being parents at a crucial time.  The breakup of a long-term relationship – particularly when there is a child involved – can be profoundly painful. You might be feeling sad, angry, guilty, regretful, relieved, or any number of emotions as you’re left reeling from the shock of the separation. And, while you might need support to get you through it, you must also keep in mind that this time in your child’s life is more important than anything going on between you and your ex. If you feel unable to move forward, it can be useful to get some external help, either in the form of relationship counselling, or individual therapy. Talk to your GP or ask at your local children’s centre to find out what support is available locally. When your emotions are still very raw, it can be difficult to see past them to the next step. Your goal should be get to a stage where you’re able to be the best parent you can be. The first three years of your child’s life are a crucial stage of their emotional development. If you are sharing custody with your ex, be aware that overnight stays in two separate homes can impede your child’s emotional development. While you might both want to have the child living with you, you may have to set aside your own wants for your child’s needs. Don’t focus on fairness between you and your ex – focus on providing continuity and consistency for your child. To achieve this, you’re going to have to cooperate with each other and maintain a positive co-parenting relationship. Put your differences aside, and make sure that your child has access to the warmth and care of both parents, even if you no longer want to be with each other [1]. Positive co-parenting You can help your child adjust to your separation by maintaining a positive relationship with your ex. Your child doesn’t care which of you was in the wrong, or which of you is hurting the most – they just need you both to be there for them. When you and your ex are getting along well, it can actually be a positive force for your child’s emotional development [2], regardless of the fact that you’re not together as a couple. Further support Like many parents in your situation, you might feel like you are powerless to change anything, particularly if you’re finding it hard to get along with your ex. However, change has to start somewhere, so it might as well start with you. Let go of any resentments and set aside the temptation to blame your partner. You can be the one to make the first positive change. You may have to be persistent, but you can start to nudge your co-parenting relationship towards being the positive force that your child needs. For more practical support, try our short course, Getting it Right for Children. It’s completely free to use – if you’re not already registered with us, just create a free Click account and you’ll be able to get started. If it feels OK to do so, consider sharing this course with your ex. Suggest it as something you can both do to make sure you have the best co-parenting relationship possible for your child. References  [1] Pruett, M., Mcintosh, J., & Kelly, J. (2014). Parental Separation and Overnight Care of Young Children. Family Court Review, 52(2), 240-255. [2] Camisasca, E., Miragoli, S., Di Blasio, P., & Feinberg, M. (2018). Co-parenting Mediates the Influence of Marital Satisfaction on Child Adjustment: The Conditional Indirect Effect by Parental Empathy. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 1-12.
Article | separation, divorce, co-parenting
What children know about your finances
Children of separated parents pick up on financial arrangements, such as who pays for what, and don’t like hearing parents complain about unfairness. In a recent study [1], 22 children of separated parents were interviewed to find out what they knew about their parents’ financial circumstances and how they felt about it. Most children were aware of the fundamental arrangements but didn’t know much about the specific details. They were also uncomfortable talking about money, saying it wasn’t relevant to them or was none of their business. Many of the children saw this as a loyalty issue, not wanting to favour one parent over the other. They were also very aware of money-based disputes, such as arguments over which parent pays for what. Children tended to feel that their mothers had less money than their fathers, or had more to pay for. This was particularly true for children who lived mainly with their mothers, and may be influenced by what they were seeing their parents paying for. Children living on a more equal basis with both parents were less likely to notice or point out financial inequality. Money seen as a symbol of love Interestingly, many of the children interviewed had picked up on the idea that money was representative of love between their parents. In other words, acknowledging financial problems also meant acknowledging the lack of love between their parents. Children were more likely to be happier when they felt their parents’ financial arrangements were fair. Children seem to be bridging a difficult gap between not knowing and not wanting to know about the specifics of finances, while being all too aware of the fundamentals and how these are handled by their parents. This can be quite a tricky situation for them, particularly when hearing their parents complain about unfairness. If you’re finding it hard to manage money with your ex-partner, try to keep the conflict away from your children. If you need to have a bit of a moan – and we all do from time to time – pick a trusted friend or family member so you can vent steam away from your children. Children do pick up on this kind of thing and they will be happier if you leave them out of it. References [1] Monica Campo, Belinda Fehlberg & Christine Millward (2016): ‘I think it’s okay; I’m not going to say it’s unfair’: Children’s views of financial arrangements in post-separation families, Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law
Article | finance, divorce
Managing handovers with your ex-partner
Handovers can be very difficult, especially if you are feeling awkward or upset at the prospect of facing your ex. 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 sake, 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.
Article | parenting apart, ex-partner
6 2 min read
Your first Christmas Day as a co-parent
Is this your first Christmas as a separated parent? Not sure what to expect or how to handle your new family setup? These tips from amicable’s divorce experts offer pragmatic advice to help you keep things merry for your co-parenting Christmas. 1. Plan ahead Don’t leave plans to the last minute. Many parents make arrangements a year in advance and have Christmas plans documented in a parenting plan. This can take the sting out of negotiating, especially if you do it at a time when you’re on good terms and not trying to angle for a specific outcome. If you haven’t got a parenting plan, you can use our free template at Splitting Up? Put Kids First. However you plan things, make sure there’s plenty of time for everyone’s views to be heard and time to get used to the arrangements. 2. Start new traditions Divorce can bring feelings of grief, and never more so than when you start contemplating ‘how things used to be’. The ending of traditions can be tough to get used to. Now is the time to be creative and invent new ways of doing Christmas. Involve your kids in planning the day, and focus on embracing change. Open your presents at a different time, have a walk after lunch instead of before, or just go nuts and eat all the Quality Street at midnight – it’s up to you to reinvent your family Christmas. Your energy and embracing of change will filter down to your kids and their experience of Christmas. 3. Who should the children spend their day with? If your children are old enough to have their say on how they want to spend Christmas, then account for this, even if it feels unfair to you. Listen to what the kids want and try and accommodate their needs and wants. If they are too little, then consider splitting the time either on the day or over the Christmas period. Try to minimise the to-ing and fro-ing, as this can cause unnecessary stress, especially if you live far apart. 4. Be realistic Typically, parents are very sensitive to Christmas being a special day and want to do the right thing. Your children might push for you all to spend the day together as a family. If you feel this is achievable, that’s great, but for many parents it just isn’t a realistic prospect. An atmosphere of tension on Christmas Day is not good for anyone, but it’s especially tough for the kids. Be realistic – if spending the day or even a short time together will cause tension, then don’t go there. They will cope more easily with seeing you separately than having to deal with you being angry or upset with each other. 5. Kids not with you on the day? If your kids aren’t with you on the day, don’t sit at home – make your own plans. Embrace the day, be inventive, and make it your alternative Christmas. Take the opportunity to spend the day with friends or family or indulge in some me time. So many families have multiple Christmas Days so, if that’s what works for your family, then make a plan and set a date to have your own Christmas Day with the kids. The main thing to remember is that Christmas should be about your children and forming safe, loving environments for them. If you want any ideas about planning your Christmas as a co-parent, join amicable’s online community for people going through divorce and separation.
Article | christmas, contact, separation, amicable
0 4 min read
Telling your children you are getting divorced
Telling your children you are getting divorced is one of the hardest aspects of separating. If you need some help to face this conversation, the following tips will get you on the right track. Tell them what’s happening when something is changing You might make the decision to separate long before you part and live in different houses. For young children, it’s best to wait and tell them you’re separating when the change is imminent. Older children might sense that something is wrong and ask questions. Only tell them you’re divorcing when you are sure you have reached that point. If you are there, and they ask, be honest. Show them you can handle the difficult conversation and listen to their concerns. Be sensitive to their timetable – try not to start difficult conversations directly before exams, birthdays or times when one of you will be away. Do it together If possible, do it with your ex-partner, and know in advance what you are both going to say. It’s often easiest to break the news at the weekend, ensuring that both of you are available for any questions your children might have. Present the news as a decision you both accept. The future co-parenting relationship will rely on a united front, so start as you mean to go on. Deal with any unresolved personal feelings in counselling, and not in front of the children. If you start talking about who’s decision it is, one of you will look weak, and the other will look like the decision maker. This is not a good long-term strategy for co-parenting. The difference between sad and bad It’s important that you frame the conversation in the right way. Don’t try and make it overly positive or present it as a great idea. Whatever relief you may be going through, your children are likely to see it differently at first. It’s OK to say that you are sad and it’s OK to cry (provided you stay in control). Blaming yourself and self-recrimination are not helpful. Try to help them accept that the end of marriage is a sad thing, not a bad thing. Divorce is a change and not the end of world. Go with their emotions; don’t try and change them. Feelings of sadness are expected, and its normal to feel sad after hearing this news. Tell the truth The truth doesn’t mean sharing everything. The ins and outs of your relationship wouldn’t normally be a topic of conversation so they shouldn’t suddenly become one just because you are separating. The truth is, you are getting divorced. One of you may have wanted it first but you have both come to agree that it’s the best way forward for your family. Don’t pretend you are trialling living apart or give children false hope of a reconciliation. Be honest if you don’t know the answers to their questions. Don’t promise unrealistic things just because you’re finding this a tough conversation. Keep it short and simple Stick to the facts and focus on the future. The children must process the news and this will take some time. You may need to repeat the conversation several times – particularly for small children. Try to preempt any questions you think they will ask – especially ‘Why?’ Have a short answer you both stick to and repeat it every time the why question is asked. Be very clear with children of all ages that this is not their fault. Nothing they have done or could have done would have changed anything – repeat this several times. Tell all your children at the same time This will ensure that everyone hears the same thing and no one feels excluded.  They may take comfort from each other. It’s fine to follow up with individual conversations with each child. This will help you answer specific concerns and help you give more age-appropriate reassurances. Being emotional is OK A lot of parents feel they need to ‘be the rock’ in this situation. It’s OK to be emotional when you tell your children – after all, it is sad news. If you are upset in front of the children this will indicate to them that it’s OK for them to be sad, that this release is natural and necessary. Being angry or bad-mouthing your ex-partner is harmful. If you feel like you might react like this, seek advice so you can prepare properly and avoid any harm. Prepare yourself for a reaction Your children may have a big reaction to the news or no reaction at all. Address how they are feeling and stay calm. They have heard what you’ve said and are trying to process it in their own way. Most reactions, however upsetting, are perfectly normal. If things don’t get better over time, this may indicate your child has got stuck in an emotional cycle of behaviour. Seek help if you’re worried – speak to a child counsellor or your GP. For further support and advice on telling your children about your divorce, please get in touch with our partners at amicable.
Article | divorce, children, amicable
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 (pdf) 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
1 3 min read
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. 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
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