It can be hard being a parent. Over the 14 years, I have worked in family law, I have seen the effect that separation has on parents and their parenting styles. Unfortunately, it can be easy for parents to get caught up in their own emotional needs and forget both the emotional and developmental needs of the children.
Even in the most amicable of separations, parents aren’t prepared for some of the difficulties that can arise. There is no training course on how to be a separate parent that I’m aware of. However, there are a number of post-separation parenting courses that can assist in trying to minimise conflicts between parents, assist with co-parenting of children, and provide strategies for maintaining open communication between parents so that the best interests of children are met.
Depending on how separation is handled, the impact upon children can be different. During separation, it is important to build a secure base for children so that the impact is contained. This might include children being taught coping skills and having therapeutic counselling to ensure that they understand what is happening and why. It is important for them to understand that parental separation is not their fault and that they aren’t to blame.
Likewise, it can be important for parents to undertake co-parenting counselling to ensure that they are not involving the children in adult matters and to minimise the possibility of children being caught up in conflict or, worse still, children thinking that they need to take one parent side.
Research undertaken by Prof Jennifer McIntosh of La Trobe University’s Institute for Primary Care indicates that where conflict continues between parents, children can suffer detrimentally. This can include children losing faith and confidence in themselves or their parents, showing their distress through bad behaviour (acting out), reduced academic performance, and in the long term, difficulty forming their own adult relationships.
The Positive Parenting Program (Triple P) has been developed over the last 30 years by Prof Matt Saunders of the University of Queensland. The program now runs in over 25 countries and provides parents with simple and practical strategies to assist in managing the behaviour of children. The Family Transitions Triple P program is specifically designed to help parents manage the behaviour of children when separation or divorce is complicating either the behaviour of parents or children.
The Family Transitions Triple P is aimed at enabling parents to learn assertive communication skills to assist in managing the challenges of co-parenting children. This includes communicating with a former partner, problem-solving techniques and developing styles of co-parenting.
Keeping Kids in Mind is an integrated post-separation parenting course provided by Centacare. This course is offered as a two-day course and covers issues about grief and loss as a result of separation, attachment of children, resilience, communication and conflict resolution, and future planning.
UnitingCare also offers a Post Separation Co-operative Parenting program that aims to assist separated parents who are in conflict to develop constructive communication, in the best interests of their children where there has been a high level of conflict during a relationship.
These types of courses can be delivered flexibly and might be able to assist in ensuring that the best interests of your children are met.
This article first appeared in Border Living magazine’s winter edition, available now – www.borderliving.com.au