Parenting After Separation Module One:
Courage Under Grief
In this first module we’ll begin to look at how parents can parent during and after a family breakdown so that their children do not suffer long term consequences. We’ll look at steps you as the parent can take to prioritise self-care in order to avoid burdening your children with your own distress. We also introduce you early on to Restored Lives, a well-known support group for divorcing and separating parents.
Any list of life’s most stressful situations put the ‘death of a loved one’ and ‘divorce’ right at the very top. So we know that you may be going through great stress and changes yourself, and even grieving about the breakup.
Grief, which can hit you as a result of divorce, goes through five major stages:
And finally, Acceptance
When a relationship breaks down the anger aspect is particularly powerful, especially if you are being treated unjustly – for example if your ex is leaving you or you are being kicked out of your own home.
But there is hope. Over the next few videos We will go on a journey together that helps you navigate what has happened to you and your children…and equip your all to flourish as a family, even if the context of your family has changed dramatically. But before we look at how we take this journey to healing & recovery, we first need to acknowledge what has happened to you…and then perhaps painfully, what has happened to your children.
For many parents we work with, family breakdown can lead to them seeing their children much less than when they were all living together. The loss of daily contact with a child can be desperately hard.
This is what one dad wrote: ‘The breakup of our marriage was like a bereavement…I had to give myself time, space and permission to cry… I found that letting out the pain made me feel better and I am sure it helped the healing process.’
However, what is devastating for you may be even more so for your children, whose whole world, their very identity and their sense of who they are may be affected. Not just for the next couple of years but well into adulthood unless we understand why that is and how to parent our children through this tough time.
Here at Fegans we provide counselling for children, many of whom have been traumatised by abuse or neglect. But 37% of the children we see in our counselling rooms are there as a result being traumatised by relationship breakdown where the parents overtly blame each other for the breakup of the family and they refuse to co-parent. Nationally, research shows that children whose parents go through relationship breakdown are at increased risk of
- Poorer mental health and low self-esteem
- Behavioural problems
- Poorer educational attainment including leaving school early
- Early entry into sexual relationships and parenthood (Joseph rowntree foundation, for reviews, see Amato, 2000; Pryor and Rodgers, 2001; Rodgers and Pryor, 1998)
But Followed correctly, the advice we give over the next few sessions can avoid that impact, equip you to co-parent and your children to continue to flourish.
So this is not to scare you, because there is good news. Because this is preventable and fixable.it is to encourage you that the choices you make today can permanently affect the brain development, and the life, of your children for the better.
Research demonstrates that many children do not experience long-term adverse consequences from family breakdown and they typically have the following common factors
- Parents respecting each other
- An increased focus on the child and hearing their voice…however painful this may be
- As much stability in other areas as possible…schools, friends, toys, grandparents
Other issues impact long term consequences which we want to focus on include:
- One or both parents not recovering well emotionally from the divorce
- Ongoing parental conflict and poor quality communication within the family
- Reduction of the quality of time spent with each parent -( not necessarily the quantity) (special time and child-led play)
- Ongoing parenting conflict
- Ongoing parental conflict can be helped through mediation and a co-parenting plan. Family mediators and organisations like Restoredlives.org can help you agree a co-parenting plan together. A detailed parenting plan will help prevent any disagreements between you from escalating into further conflict.
- Take a look at our downloadable co-parenting plan for ideas.
- How fast parents recover: One of the biggest factors in a child’s recovery from the effect of divorce is how well their parents recover from it. This means that if you are the “wronged party” it is especially important that you get all the support around you to be well. The more you are able to hide your shock, grief and anger, (however justified they may be) the better it is for your children. If you don’t want help from talking it through, then do things which nurture you and make you feel well.
You are only going to be able to recover if you make caring for yourself a priority. But it must be away from the children; talk to a GP and ask for help with counselling, especially if you do not have a supportive network of friends and/or family. You must talk your pain and anger through but it must not be with, or in front of, your children. It takes great courage and self-discipline to keep your feelings about the relationship breakdown from the children. . But it is vital.
- Reduction in quality time with parents
Even if you are the absent parent and feel you don’t have enough time with your children, research shows it is the QUALITY of the time you spend, not the quantity that will affect not only your relationship but also their mental health well into the future. (Joseph Rowntree) So in this course we are going to help with specific tools we give parents, starting off with Special Time and Child-led play.
Before we go onto those tools we’ll be looking at something called “Attachment”, which uses recent scientific discoveries about the brain to explain how a child’s brain develops, and how that affects their very identity. It is vital for you to know a little bit about this because it will help you even in the darkest of times, to avoid burdening your children with information they are not equipped to handle. It will also equip you to tailor how you parent your children in your context as you begin to understand not just what needs to be done but why.