I remember acutely hearing an account by Bob Geldof of what it felt like to arrive at the front door of his old house to collect his children.To ring the bell, and then stand on the doorstep – like a stranger.Hearing that tale all those years ago, I felt the mixture of pain, confusion and horror at what that must have felt like, even though at the time I had never directly experienced family breakup, nor considered myself particularly empathic. But it must surely be a deeply humbling experience.
These days as a Divorce Strategist, I hear many variations of how fathers access their children and the rules by which they are bound, and I still feel that intense compassion for what must be a profoundly painful experience – one that many do not comprehend until it’s too late to change the course of how that particular dance is played out.Because I believe that they do have clear choices in the run up to that day of reckoning. Divorcing dads have plenty of opportunities to practice which steps of the dance they wish to perfect – and my hope is that this short article will help some father’s focus on those stark choices.
I lay these options out in the clear acknowledgment that in a parental alienation or domestic abuse situation – yes, men can be on the receiving end of psychological and physical abuse – then the situation is not so simple.But in the vast majority of cases, this is what is available to you chaps, so please pay attention:
Option no. 1:Don’t turn up on the doorstep at all
You could choose to just not engage at all as a father – perhaps convincing yourself that you can later on rebuild a relationship with your kids after they have left home, or on your own terms, and avoiding the humiliation of having the neighbours watching as you step through the front gate that is no longer ‘your’ front gate, or that uncomfortable shuffling on the doorstep after ringing the bell.Or you may go further and commit suicide.Opt out all together.They say that the suicide rate for men doubles post divorce.
But from the child’s point of view, either option is deeply selfish and damaging.So personally, I would recommend that all parents put their egos away, get some coaching and counselling to deal with their situation, and focus on the love they have for their children.Withdrawing in any way from being an active parent, is a negative choice.
Option no. 2: Not be allowed to come onto the property at all
Exclusion zones enforced by the police may allow you only to wait at the end of the street – or have contact in a specified contact centre with a stranger chaperoning you and your child for limited specified times.It is amazing how many men choose this option.Of course some have it forced upon them unfairly (note earlier caveat) but many choose to be verbally abusive, damage property, make threats.Having a tantrum and smashing a few household items and other outbursts is a good way to ensure you end up not being allowed anywhere near the family home post-divorce.
Anger and emotional pain need to be expressed – but don’t do it in the family abode or in front of your Ex spouse (or even down the telephone line or by email) – because that behaviour can lead you towards a destination that is not a nice place to be.But it is a choice nonetheless, and if you choreograph those steps in the run up to your divorce, don’t be surprised if those formal police warnings turning into a restraining order.
Option no. 3: Not invited in
I always imagine this to be a particularly painful option.People will only invite you in if they want to.And if you spend the months or years preceding this day making your Ex miserable, why are they going to suddenly turn round when they have their own independent front door and ask you in for a cup of tea?Nope – it ain’t going to happen.Even if it’s raining, you can just stand outside while the kids get their boots and coats on.
The relationship you forge during a separation and divorce is your responsibility.Don’t turn round at the end and expect your Ex to forget all those unkind words, that lack of trust, that emotionally bullying.They won’t.This is a common option men choose perhaps because they don’t want to ‘be friends’ with their children’s co-parent.But you don’t need to be friends – or even like each other anymore.But to not even get invited over the threshold when collecting the kids?Come on, that’s shit.Who would want to make that their outcome?
Option no. 4:You have the choice of accepting that offer for a cup of tea
Imagine arriving to collect the kids and being asked in for a cuppa while they get ready.Imagine having a polite, possible stilted at first, conversation about how they are doing at school; did you get the letter about the parent’s evening? When are we going to do the diary about who has the kids over the holidays? What are you doing over Christmas?
As the saying goes, it takes two to Tango – so you can try to blame your Ex as much as you like – but you are the partner in this co-parenting dance, and you may not get to choose the dancehall, or even the music – but you sure as hell get to choose which steps you take and whether you put your children’s experience of co-parenting before your own damaged sense of self worth. Smashed self esteem and a deep sense of injustice can be healed. But in the meantime, it isn’t going to help your children learn how to build healthy relationships by them watching their parents treat each other without any respect. Or compassion.
Imagine having the opportunity to say: “Thanks for the offer of a coffee – but we need to get going.” ?
No being stranded on the doorstep.No exclusion zone.
And apart from how that might feel for you – how is that going to feel for your kids?
Four clear choices.The preparation starts earlier than you think.Which are you going to choose?
EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) aka Tapping is a Self-Help tool to lower and manage anxieties, feelings of anger or unfairness, overwhelm, panic or fear.
Are you pregnant and troubled by anxiety?
Is your relationship with your partner in trouble?
Has your marriage broken down?
You have been left suddenly and must deal with the pregnancy yourself.
You are struggling with this situation and have very little emotional support.
Working with a practitioner can clear deep rooted anxieties and offers resolution to long term stress and traumatic issues.
Your unborn child can sense trauma, shock and anxiety experienced by you. Your unborn child cannot disassociate from your feelings.
When you become pregnant, the baby growing inside you cannot disassociate from what you are feeling. Your feelings of shock, high stress or deep anxiety are transferred directly to your unborn child. Months later when it is time for your child to be born it may enter into the world, believing subconsciously, that the world is a dangerous place. The baby may be anxious, difficult to settle. A cycle of new anxiety may be established.
(A child can take on ancestral patterns of behaviour and beliefs subconsciously; directly from you the mother. Often as adults we need to clear some ancestral beliefs and behaviours which we have inherited from our mother and before. Quite simply if they do not serve why would we wish to keep them. We need to clear).
Young Children and babies in-utero can feel stress
Stress and anxiety is not just an adult concern. Children under two years old and in-utero, sense and are emotionally affected by stress and disharmony in the home.
Children can sense when a parent feels less stressed. Previous negative behavioural patterns can decrease as children sense this change in a parent.
When a demanding or needy child has a sense of more calm, they subconsciously adapt their previous attention seeking behaviour to what might be considered as more acceptable behaviour. It is of course all relative to the individual.
A happy and relaxed child who has shown signs of emotional distress can subconsciously dismiss and remove troubling behaviours very, very quickly. This is possible perhaps, because they have not lived with and been affected by parental disharmony over a long period of time. Less emotional upset has been caused. Emotional distress can evaporate quicker than a child who knows only disharmony or upset.
Once a baby or child senses calm and love coming from the father or mother all relationships can improve very quickly.
Be Mindful of Self-Care opportunities:
Techniques, strategies and working towards a better personal situation is empowering. When you feel better, your unborn child can sense this.
Benefits of learning EFT
It can help you to de-stress and therefore your unborn child will sense a positive change . You can feel more calm and in control; your baby will feel the same.
What happens during Tapping?
Crucially EFT works at two levels.
We quieten and clear Mind Chatter; our Inner Voice. The voice some of us mistakenly think is correct and in charge of who and what we are. The Inner Voice which goes over and over our negative beliefs and anxieties. When we listen to that negative voice we give these anxieties more and more power. We are confused because we think these beliefs and thoughts must be true.
But this Inner Voice can be hushed when we release the energy at Cellular Level .
How is negative blocked energy released?
We release the blocked energy- the feelings of stress and physical discomfort- by Tapping on specific Energy meridians in our body (Acupuncturist use needles to do this; we Tap). Very specifically we state
where we feel our discomfort.
describe its shape, size and colour.
The more specific we can be the better so that blocked energy/stress can be worked on and released.
We voice the specific fear we hear in our head and by combining Voicing and Tapping, we can release the blocked energy. The charge is gone.
How long do I need to tap?
Five to ten minutes of Tapping can make significant improvements to how we feel. When we feel more calm and in control we are better fit to deal with our given situation.
EFT is practiced and shared by Counsellors, Hypnotherapists, Doctors, Psychiatrists…..
Perhaps it’s time for you and your baby or child to benefit from Tapping?
Demographic studies show that more than 40 percent of children born to two parents can expect to live in a single-parent family by the time they are 18. Parenthood seems to provoke the spike in the divorce and separation statistics, with roughly a fifth of all marriages ending within five years after the birth of the first child.
Can the birth of a child trigger divorce?
In the video, Catherine – mother of 4 – shares her experiences, and we receive guidance on better ways to support women and their partners through the birth process and beyond from Birth Doulas Amanda Edwards and Gemma Harvey.
Some people end a relationship because one wanted kids, and the other one didn’t. But what happens when parents want kids – until they are actually born – and then the relationship begins to falter? Can the actual birth experience be to blame? And what can parents do to prepare themselves?
Research has found that couples whose first child is a girl are more likely to divorce than those whose firstborn is a boy. But a 2014 Duke University study suggests that, instead of daughters somehow “triggering” divorce, girls may simply be hardier than boys in the womb—and may be more likely to survive pregnancies stressed by a troubled marriage.
People change profoundly when they become parents, and now that both tend to work longer hours than ever before, they rarely find time for themselves, let alone for each other.
“Once we had a family, finding time to do our work was always a problem,’ says divorcee Joyce. ‘Money was always a problem. Childcare was a problem. Sex was a problem. Communications between the two of us broke down under the pressures of family life. I nagged, he refused to talk.”
Birth Doulas and Mandalas
The experience of birth can have an impact on relationships – that is clear. But if mothers like Catherine in the video, could receive a more holistic and less solely medical level of support, that could be a way to make the birth experience, and the ability parents find to deal with this huge life change, easier to navigate.
Whether it is creating a Birth Mandala, working with a Happiness Coach or having a Doula to support both parents through the birth, there are more choices available to most parents than they realise.
The pressures on couples that can lead to a divorce are not caused by the birth of a baby – they are caused by the inevitable pressures of parenting in a world that may have lost it’s way, and forgotten that childbirth is not a mechanical act – but a mystical process – and one that requires a more emotionally intelligent approach in the care and support of those parents who receive those squirming, screaming, sacred beings into their world.
There are both physical and psychological deterrents to pleasurable sex for new parents.
Sheer physical exhaustion apart, there are numerous reasons why the new mother may take no interest in sex: the release of prolactin while breastfeeding depresses her libido; her body has yet to return to the shape that makes her feel attractive; she associates sex with pregnancy and the last thing she wants is to fall pregnant again. And if she was stitched too tightly, penetration might also be painful.
According to Ann Herreboudt, a London postnatal counsellor, about 40 per cent of the first-time mothers she sees have no sexual relations with their husbands for up to two years. “And if you take into account the latter stages of pregnancy, it’s even longer,” she says.
Carolyn Pape Cowan, PH.D and Philip A. Cowan PH.D were so concerned about the high incidence of marital distress and divorce among the parents of young children, that they decided to study systematically what happens to partners when they become parents.
Ninety-two percent of the men and women in the study who became parents described more conflict after having their baby than before they became parents. The division of workload in the family wins hands down as the issue most likely to cause conflict in the first two years. Women feel the impact of the transition more strongly during the first six months after birth, and their husbands feel it more strongly in the following year.
The Cowans believe that children are getting an unfair share of the blame for their parents’ distress. Based on 15 years of research that includes a three-year pilot study, a 10-year study following 72 expectant couples and 24 couples without children, and ongoing work with couples in distress, they are convinced that the seeds of new parents’ individual and marital problems are sown long before the baby arrives. Becoming parents does not so much raise new problems as bring old unresolved issues to the surface.
“A significant number of couples trace their sex problems back to the postnatal period. Often, they haven’t made love for a long time after birth and are having difficulty restarting their sex life. The important thing is that men be allowed to express their feelings of anger and resentment. The validation of those feelings will help to satisfy some men.”
Tangible support for parents that could help to avert divorce
Sophia Smith, BSc, MAR, NFSH – is a reflexologist, spiritual healer and doula, practising Maternity and Fertility Reflexology. She works with ‘Mother Nature’, helping couples with preconception preparation and with support through pregnancy, during birth, and postnatally.
As she describes in the video, Sophia’s work in pregnancy and post-birth offers practical and effective approaches that can significantly reduced the stress on the parents’ partnership. She has been described as a ‘midwife for the soul’, her treatments encompassing awareness of the incoming soul and presence of the baby.
How reflexology can help
Reflexology treatment involves massage strokes and gentle pressure on the feet, which reflect and influence the whole body’s anatomy. It is used to harmonise hormones and balance physiological function and as such is highly suited to pregnancy and preparation for birth. Described as ‘nature’s tranquillizer’, it promotes production of endorphins and natural oxytocin, the ‘love hormones’ that play a primary role in the birth process. Sessions are nurturing, comfortable and profoundly relaxing.
Sophia draws on her wide range of training and experience to deliver holistic and powerful treatments for almost anything that may occur in pregnancy. These include preparation or ‘priming’ for labour from the estimated due date to encourage a timely start to labour, or to help encourage a baby to turn from a breech position from 36 to 40 weeks.
And as Sophia relates in the video – the gentle relaxation promoted through reflexology can also have a positive effect on the physical relationship between the couple.
But are women taking the lack of sexual activity post birth seriously enough?
Postnatal counsellor Ann Herreboudt believes that: “Most say their husbands are fed up, but only half the women are concerned about it. That’s a big mistake. More marriages break up in the first 18 months after childbirth than at any other time…. it’s safe to assume that sex, or the lack of it, is a major contributing factor.”
An inspirational story by a mother who describes the strain on her marriage when one of their twins is born with brain damage.
Study on bereaved parents and divorce
In an article entitled Bereaved Parents and Divorceby Dr Mark Hardt Ph.D. & Dannette Carroll, it is reported that in 1977 a bereaved parent, wishing to illustrate the need for a formal examination of the risk of parental divorce subsequent to the death of a child, guess-timated that 75% of such parents eventually divorce within months of the death (Schiff, 1977). The figure is not derived from any empirical evidence; it was meant to illustrate a need for analysis. However, it became an accepted ‘fact’ by many professionals dealing in that area of support for parents.
Guilt and anger are very common emotions felt by parents whose children die, and these emotions need to be addressed. It is significant that the majority of respondents reported that both they and their spouses had sought counselling after their child’s death.
In the film, Sarah explains that she and her husband – whose relationship was ultimately strengthened by the experiences and the way they dealt with those experiences – found counselling extremely useful. Particularly in helping them both to understand that they had very different ways of dealing with the grief, and to be able to support each other despite not necessarily understanding the other’s different approaches to surviving this emotional ordeal.
What about parents of children with special needs?
OnePlusOne states: “It’s not very surprising that research shows that couples raising chronically ill or disabled children are more likely to divorce or separate than parents with non-disabled children. And those couples who do split up are less likely to remarry.”
They put it down to “the gruelling schedule of 24-hour care and frequent hospitilisation, plus grief, financial pressure and continual worry over a child’s health” which puts a massive stress on the couple’s relationship.
Do babies that die cause divorce?
Although it is accepted that the death of a child can eventually lead to emotional estrangement, apathy, and indifference toward the marriage, a full on study was finally conducted by Dr. Mark Hardt and Dannette Carroll of Billing, MT. This statistically responsible study presented some interesting results.
Only 9% of respondents divorced following their child’s death. 24% of the remaining respondents had considered divorce but had not actually done so.
Instead of serving as a catalyst to separate, it would seem that a child’s death can actually serve to draw couples together.
For families who are not suffering the loss of a child, but who are at risk of divorce – or have already split up – I believe they can find inspiration from the way Sarah and her husband dealt with the situation they found themselves in.
Whether a couple stay together or not – that ability to be resilient, to respect each other’s differences, and to find their own ‘dance’ – is going to make any co-parenting relationship stronger, whether inside or outside of a marriage.
25 April is the official ‘Parental Alienation Awareness Day’. This is a term that many people will never have heard before, but many children and their parents will have experienced.
ParentalAlienation (PAS) exists in many forms and the harm that is does to parents – and to the children – is inestimable.
International parenting expert Rosalind Sedacca of Child Centered Divorce explains that: “ParentalAlienation is the darkest, most damaging consequence of divorce done wrong. It’s impact can last a lifetime — and it can boomerang on you in the years to come.”
If you want some scary statistics: In Psychology Today, Edward Kruk has written of 11-15% of the children of divorcing parents suffering the effects of implacable hostility – which is where one parent refuses to willingly allow access to the children by the other parent. In the UK, where roughly 250,000 divorces are granted every year, that estimate would equate to some 50,000-75,000 children every year.
PAS is a form of child abuse in many people’s opinion – but there are much more subtle and common forms of alienation, and not always against the non-resident parent.
This mother shares her story in a poignant short film which will resonate with many co-parents and children.
The Government pushing companies to better support employees through divorce
Iain Duncan-Smith was reported in The Telegraph saying that the Government was going to “push” companies into becoming better at identifying these problems and offering help before they get worse to help keep their employees in work.
But how can this be achieved?
As the UK’s Alternative Divorce Guide and promoter of dispute resolution professionals via the Alternative Divorce Directory, I wanted to create a solution.
The CoParenting in a Box resource is sharing videos like the one above with the help of employee benefits provider Perkbox – the first time that direct resources and support for parents has been shared with UK employees to empower them to reduce the amount of conflict that family separation can spark. Conflict that directly effects the productivity of the workforce.
300,000 UK employees – many of whom will be ‘co-parenting’ – will be able to access the online ‘box’ collection of key video interviews with experts, downloadable resources and complimentary 1-1 expert advice, all available within CoParenting in a Box. Videos include those of young adults explaining the significant affects of one of their parents making them hate the other parent – or simply disrespect them – on there ability to relate healthily to others and to themselves in later life.
Accessible online for a very low cost (I am determined to keep this resource as affordable as possible to every parent who splits in the UK) – the ‘box’ is also available at no charge via trusted partners like Perkbox. Other organisations on the Partnership Page are Resolution, National Family Mediation, Families Need Fathers and Voices in the Middle.
Most of the content has been created specifically to educate parents, and includes informative videos from experts such as Mediator and Arbitrator Nadia Beckett, who often gets asked by clients: “How do I get to see my children?”. Her advice is to be careful about rushing off to court to resolve these issues, a course of action that can seriously backfire.
Videos for co-parenting education and empowerment
I am delighted to be one of the participants in the forthcoming 1001 Critical Days Manifesto “Tomorrow’s Child” exhibition at the Houses of Parliament – which brings scientists and artists together to raise awareness about the importance of the early days of conception and childhood to future health and wellbeing – using video as my medium.
I love to collect real stories that when shared, empower others. Whether that is a story shared by a family mediator or collaborative lawyer about the sometimes disastrous effects of battling for child custody through the courts, to a mother sharing her experience of her child’s father ‘saying bad things’ about her. Videos are easy to watch on mobile devices and shared stories are powerful ways to educate and inspire others.
It’s just no good waiting until people are in the middle of divorce to ‘educate’ them about how not to make a huge mess of it all. My hope is that via proactive employers and partnerships, together we can make that key knowledge accessible and easily available way before the madness of divorce and breakup kick in.