We Need to Talk About…

Divorce and Separation!

It’s not the most pleasant or positive topic of conversation, is it? Even when those glossy celebrities are ‘consciously uncoupling’ all over the media, trying to make ‘splitting up’ sound sexy, it’s still not something we seem to want to talk openly about – especially when it’s happening to us or someone else we care about!  Because the truth is, no matter how or why we dissolve an intimate partnership relationship, everybody gets hurt!

Given that we only have a 50% chance of sticking together for life with a partner these days, shouldn’t we be providing more practical guidance beyond separation? Surely by NOT talking enough about this commonplace human situation, we continue to overlook one of our ever-increasing, most complex social dilemmas? In our discerning, health-conscious society, we have support groups for a variety of medical conditions, but when dealing with relationship and family breakdown mental health, the options are incredibly limited.

So when someone we care about arrives at the end of a relationship, how do we help them?  Well, truthfully, there are a few vitally supportive things you can & should do.   The first is to be the best ‘listener’ you can be – whether or not you have any personal experience in this regard is mostly irrelevant! The other valuable assistance you can offer is to point them firmly in the direction of a trained professional (preferably not your nearest family law solicitor!) who specialises in dealing with the issues of divorce & separation. Referring them to seek help is even more essential when there are children in the equation as their welfare during the process is of the utmost importance if their ‘family life’ is to be successfully transformed into a different ‘shape’ i.e. from one home into two spaces they belong.

Kids Come First is a community interest project helping and supporting separated parents in Richmond borough & surrounds. It’s not counselling – it’s a learning workshop that focuses on the needs of children, offered at an affordable, not-for-profit fee. The workshop presenters are founders of the project, both qualified adult trainers with extensive experience in the fields of family therapy and mediation. Our years spent working with parents directed by the Family Courts prompted us to launch a project that would provide the right kind of ‘intervention’ parents need most during this emotional and difficult time, at a much earlier stage of the separation.

Sometimes parents become so wrapped up in themselves; they lose focus on what’s really important. In the ensuing panic and uncertainty of impending separation, and desperately seeking sound advice, they often end up with ‘unhelpful’ misinformation instead! They may even unwittingly, find themselves locked in family conflict within the legal system. This kind of chaos, confusion and animosity inevitably leads to one scenario – parents finding themselves unable to work together or agree on the simplest of things and unable to provide the basic structure and positive input their children crave so desperately at this time.

By increasing parent’s awareness and understanding of their children’s needs & responses, Kids Come First works to create a practical ‘toolkit’ for more positive co-parenting. It’s our mission to help protect children from the emotional damage caused by ongoing parental battles so get in touch to find out how you can help separated parents get the right support when they need it most!

gingerbread family

Read our latest feature in Families-upon-Thames Magazine here


Why difference is good for Co-parenting?

Why is it once you separate from your ex-spouse or partner that you may seem to disagree on everything you believe is good for your child?

When you’re no longer in love, a part of that compromising ‘glue’ that helped you reach mutual decisions has apparently dissolved.  In fact, that one part of the brain that often makes us see the other person through ‘rose-tinted glasses’ no longer operates the same way. And  so you may be more inclined to want to ‘stand your ground’ with  more individualistic views of how you want to bring up your child.

Parents can often end up fighting in Court over their differences that seem so despairingly contrasting. But difference in parenting styles can be a good thing! Of course, it’s important that you both find some common ground and agree on basic beliefs as to how you want to co-parent and to create a ‘safe roof effect’, one which protects and reassures your children.

But difference is key too as it will offer many more opportunities for any child and cover many more bases and enable and provide more skills for your child. You may be the more fun-loving parent while your former partner is more academic. You may love reading and have a passion for art and crafts and the other parent loves sports, adventure and travel. These are all amazing qualities and interests which make for  a more rounded upbringing for a child. As their role-model, you will want to give them the ‘good stuff’ that’s been passed down by your parents and this will apply to the other parent too.

So enjoy the difference and let each parent celebrate your differences via your child. Your child will ultimately thank you for the double legacy you both have to offer.

How playing the ‘blame game’ undermines & affects separated parenting.

As a parent, playing the ‘blame game’ may be fairly satisfying in the short term but will actually begin to surreptitiously undermine oneself eventually, whilst negating and eroding the another parent in the process. Sadly this is a typical behaviour we observe when parents separate. The need to blame is very much a part of the initial stages of grief and fury. It can feel really good to blame the other parent and thereby absolve ourselves of guilt – another painful emotion.   And of course there are only so many terrible feelings one can cope with when breaking up feels so horrendous.

But, by finding oneself constantly in a blaming matrix and frequently blaming the other person, the longer we maintain our ‘fixed’ position, the longer we remain ‘stuck’ and avoiding necessary change. “It’s all his/her fault”, we say in adopting this ‘easier’ stance, where no shift or compromise or healthy self-analysis can take place.

If we are unable to be really honest about assessing our own roles, looking within ourselves and examining our own behaviour, in order to determine how one can change and learn from past incidents, then the situation may only become further ‘inflamed’ to a point that disables us like a paralysis. Entrenched and stuck in a rut, no progress or forward motion can be made.

When parents blame each other they are actually negating their own parenting prowess, robbing themselves of all their strengths and qualities as parents. By spending a lot of energy focusing on one another’s mistakes, an impasse is reached. It is often at this point that their children will feel lost or overlooked. We end up with two negated parents, erased by their continuous blaming of one another and this can create an emotional deficit for the children. Particularly at a time when children need to observe their parents being stronger than ever. Both parents need all the energy for themselves so that they can bring up their children. An even more difficult task than usual!

Taking stock of oneself and taking control of our actions & reactions is far more rewarding and the results more tangible. One can see the progress from within. Negative profiling, viewing the other parent with an ever-critical eye, ‘plotting’ their demise and obsessing over what they are doing with ‘your child’, ultimately only takes away from YOU as a parent.

The amount of time and effort wasted obsessing and generating negative energy and blame results in loss of time spent enjoying your child/ren. In building on the foundation of their childhood and creating lovely moments, we make wonderful memories for them.

Of course, it takes time to recover from a separation experience (especially if you are embroiled in family court legalities) so if you find yourself on this negative trajectory after more than a couple of years, then maybe it’s time to explore alternative options and other kinds of support.

Try to have more fun with your children. Stop looking at those court papers or taking note of all times the other parent is late for weekend pick ups, or making a case for your solicitor to present in court about ‘what an awful parent they are’. ‎It’s time to enjoy yourself and your child, to take a healthy control and reap the rewards of your decisive actions to move forward and seeking a fruitful future.

Know another parent going through divorce or separation?
Why not share the information below with them? 
Kids Come First – How Can We Help You?
Kids Come First Flyer