There is no word or title to describe me

It occurred to me recently that there is no title for me that my ex-husbands new children can use when referring to me. There is not a single word to describe ‘my-half-siblings-mother’ or ‘my-fathers-ex-wife’ in the English language.  This made me think of how important titles are to me and that each one comes with a built in group of expectations and beliefs — mother, daughter, sister, friend, partner, step-mother, cousin, niece, woman, professional…ex-wife.

Yup…despite trying to fulfill as well as I can on all of the expectations of all of these titles, I still ended up as an ex-wife. Which is a title that I did not want. I am keenly aware of the beliefs and expectations that people have of someone with the title of ‘ex-wife’. Especially my ex-husbands’ beliefs and expectations.

So this thought that I need a title for what my ex-husbands new children can call me seems important to me. These titles tell us and the rest of the world how we relate to one another and what they can expect from us. A title is helpful and makes it simple and straightforward for people to lump us in to their own thinking so they can move on with their day.

I most certainly don’t want to take up anyone’s time by trying to describe the complex-messy-fullness that is my life and the relationships and people in it. It would be so much easier to just say a word and everyone – including me – can immediately understand the relationship.

The fact that I am thoughtful about what my ex-husband’s children will call me is a sign of my growth and progress.

6.5 years ago my thoughts were occupied with my immediate survival of being heartbroken.  With two very young children I was worried about waking up each day and doing the next thing required of me. I had a new title – single mother.

And then, as time went on, my thoughts and energies were devoted to the process of living each day and trying…trying, to fulfill on these new titles that I grappled with wearing. Separated, ex-wife…high-conflict divorcee. I was living each day doing the best I could trying to wear all of the new expectations and

beliefs about these titles that I would never have chosen for myself. This violent shove into a new reality was more than I thought I could handle. I did my best.

We were stuck for years in our roles and titles as ‘ex’s’ in a ‘fight’. Not ‘fight’ in the messy yelling kind of way (although we’ve had our moments); more a ‘fight’ in the legal wrangling kind of fight. We added ‘client’ to our list of titles. Our divorce lawyers happily became our guides through the family court system.

We had a couple of legal issues, but mostly we just didn’t have the skills to

resolve issues with our enemy — a new title we both wore. Enemy. Nemesis. Again, living up to the beliefs and expectations of these titles for one another.

We both believed that we were doing a great job of insulating our children from our battle. We didn’t argue in front of them. We were exceedingly polite when we did speak. We effectively ignored each others’ spouses, but again, we would never be overtly rude! We did not think we spoke badly of the other parent. We both believed we were doing a great job protecting these beautiful children from our inner, legal and financial turmoil. We were both fighting the good fight. Doing what the family law system tells us is the right way to serve our children. This allowed us to add “martyr” to the long list of titles we were accumulating through this process.

We ended up being very angry, bitter, broke, suffering – all titles I wore proudly to show the fight was worth it. Fighting endlessly with the only result being that one of you loses is stressful and painful. It’s frightening. For some reason, we also felt like our children didn’t see or feel our fear. After 6+ years in the family court system we were at an impasse.

Family counselling became a way out of the wet paper bag that was our lives…no judge could solve our issues. No two lawyers would encourage us to just speak to one another! We were ingrained in our titles of warriors and enemies. Then we began family counselling.

The humbling experience of family counselling began in earnest…with bi-weekly appointments and tension that you could cut with a knife. We all met together, the four of us; me and my spouse with my co-parent and his wife. We had to deal with our titles and our beliefs about one another. We had to learn how we would speak to one another and the basics of human interactions. We said our fears out loud. We listened and heard one another for the first time. We got angry. We got resolution. We got to laugh. We cried. We reached…agreement. An agreement about how we wanted to co-parent going forward.

 

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Through this process I have come to accept that we all carry another title…a title that overrides any of us as individuals. We are a SYSTEM. Each part of the system is critical. We all have roles in the system. We each have impact on the others. This was a humbling thing to accept  because you can not stay enemies with someone your system/team depends on! You need them to be happy and healthy so that your children, and ultimately the system can thrive. We are a family system. None of us chose it. None of us know how to do it well. We are all learning. We are all figuring it out as we go.

Through the process of accepting the system  I could still name my roles in the system. Mother. Partner. Co-parent. I was defining how I wanted to look and feel in these roles and with growing confidence we were all wearing our titles with some pride. We were developing new expectations for those titles in our system.

Which brought me to the realization that started this entire thing…there is not a word for me and my role in the lives of my ex-husbands children. What do Luke and Emily call someone who loves them simply because they were born my children’s sibling? What title would apply to someone who values and cares for you as part of a family entity that all works together?

I have heard that the number of words a society has for something indicates how important it is to the society. Is it true that my role in their system is not important? That can’t be because I have seen evidence of the fact that we are a system. And I have empirical evidence that all of our lives are improved with the acknowledgement that we are a system. A living and breathing and evolving system that must work together to the benefit of everyone in it. Does everyone else get a title except me?

Looking back on all of the titles I have worn during this process I have to wonder…do these titles actually help us? Are the beliefs and expectations for each role even true? Do titles alone describe the value of each role in the system? Have these titles and beliefs that society puts on all of us helping us forge ahead in this new world of blended families, problem solving with the enemy, and embracing the fact that we are a system…that no individual is more valued than another?

No!!! Living up to these titles might be the reason we stayed so long as a failing system.

I choose to see this lack of a name and title as liberation…we can all define my role in their little lives in a way that works for us in our system – no expectations or set beliefs. If my role is not immediately clear and understood by others, that’s okay because maybe in describing the role I play to others we can all move the needle on how we understand and name people in a blended family system. How we can move past the titles and become valued parts a system that thrives. It is not perfect, but it thrives. It is not our choice, but it is our reality. I, for one, am ready to break out from the titles and beliefs and expectations everyone has of divorce and blended families and I want to say….”I’m ready to try this in a way that honours everyone in the system. In a way that honours me”

Who needs a title when I have a name. They can call just me Karen  🙂

 

(editors note: this post was submitted by a mother, co-parent, person … who was brave enough to imagine, seek, find and adopt a different outcome after separation and divorce)

Counting to Ten is Not Enough so How do I Calm Myself Down?

When I was a kid, my parents used to say “count to ten” or “take a deep breath” however this never seemed to work. Either I would refuse to do it as they were TELLING me to do something, telling me during an argument or I would do it only to find I was still very upset and not relaxed at all! Arguments and fights full of “potty mouth” were regular elements of my childhood. What perpetuated this poor, hurtful behaviour and why did it no go away? I mean, we all knew it was not good?

Unfortunately my parents, like so many of us, didn’t know or understand the basic science around properly oxygenating our bodies. We also did not know the creative way our body manages stress… so cool is the body’s Physiological Stress Response. Yes, during a 1988 York University lecture, it was said to be the body’s smart” response to stress!  When I heard that stress was actually a positive thing I was shocked.

Why had I not heard this in over two decades of life? (Not even in school? At least not that I remember 🙂

Turns out our bodies, yes all 7+ billion of us, do something amazing when we are faced with a real or even perceived threat. Oxygen is depleted in a millisecond, the brain senses the problem and sends out the alarm “WE’RE UNDER ATTACK”!  We know how the story goes from there. Well, if not and by way of a refresher, the adrenal gland releases stress hormones (- known on the street as adrenaline -) called cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine, etc., then the heart rate and blood pressure surge, our muscles tense and tighten and the cooling system or sweat glands kick in with the intensity of a thunderclap. As stated, it all happens in a millisecond, the body’s smart response to an attack.

Imagine you’re walking through the woods, down a rocky path on a beautiful sunny day, and you hear a rustling sound. Off to your left, in the grass, about twenty five feet or so, you see a bear! The body immediately acts to bring about a surge of energy often referred to as the fight or flight response. Our bodies are creatively designed to move us into either fight, flight, faint or freeze during heightened stress. Remember, the stressor may be real or not.

The lecturer then asked us to consider the four systems that rocket into action under stress: Under the sympathetic side of our nervous system, the endocrine system releases hormones to fuel the great burst in energy, the cardiovascular system, muscular and cooling systems also engage. What the professor asked next taught me so much more about the benefits of relaxing our bodies.  He said “If four of your body’s systems kick-in intensely to address the stress then where does the energy come from… what four or five systems give up energy or transfer energy?”

What physiological systems are not required when a bear attack is present? What is not required?

Wow! Of course! When a bear comes out we’re not going to require much thought or higher order reasoning. I recall reference to this as the ‘brain drain’. You certainly wouldn’t need to ask your friend “where do you think the bear came from, is he a brown or kodiak?“.  Brain drain? No wonder I have said such silly, hurtful and ridiculous things in stressful moments.

Next, we do not need our digestive system… not a great time to eat.  Probably not going to say “let’s have a sandwich, get some energy, before dealing with that bear“. Probably not going to go to the washroom either. That’s right. The gastrointestinal (GI) system also gives up energy for the fight or flight, “body’s smart” response to stress. Amazingly, the limbic system (sleep regulation) and the reproductive system (do I need to say what this one can do?) also give energy into the pot for our sympathetic system’s quick response to the bear.

Makes sense right? We’re not going to need our upper level thinking, sleep system, eat a meal, get frisky nor go to the washroom, although the latter may happen involuntarily in the face of a bear.

Toward the end of this dramatically presented bear story, the professor said “Of course you need this stress response when facing a bear, an attacker or an oncoming car in the way of… but… (he yells) you don’t usually need the physiological stress response in family relationships, bank line ups or while driving! However, it is exactly the same physiological response.

How did this all begin? What was the first physical change? Loss of Oxygen!!!!!!!!!! Then Breathe, Breathe, Breathe, Breathe

We can shut down the sympathetic response from our nervous system, engage the parasympathetic thereby relaxing and rebalancing our bodies with, not one, four deep breaths, slowed down, paced twenty second breaths

Reduce stress, relax heart rate and lower blood pressure… did I mention increase mental clarity and concentration, appear friendlier, be more amorous and improve your sleep 🙂

Have you heard of “box breathing”? Below is a little video to show how to breathe around the box shape. Remember, you can do this almost anywhere, anytime in almost any situation where you experience stress – low, moderate, high or severe.

 

Be seated or lying down if your doing more than 5 or 6 breaths

You can practice tens or hundreds of times per day so that when you really need this skill it will often come to you seemingly naturally. It will become your go to relaxation skill. You can also add many variations of thinking patterns to help. Some might imagine beautiful and relaxing scenes, call up past images that are calming and refreshing (guided imagery) or breathe in a calm word and exhale a stress heightening term. Others still use meditation and prayer along with deep breathing. Example of  “breath prayers” are below

Breath Prayers can bring believers closer to God.

“Be still and know …mississippi 184 that I am God”(Psalm 46:10)

“Come into my heart, … Lord Jesus.” (Rev. 22:20)

“Say … the word” (Luke 7:7)

“Not my will,… but yours.” (Luke 22:42)

“Show … your power.” (Psalm 68:28)

“Here … I am.” (Isaiah 6:8)

“My help … comes from the Lord.” (Psalm 121:2)

“Speak, Lord,… for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:9)

“Lord, … have mercy.”(Psalm 123:3, Luke 18:13, 38)

This simple deep breathing exercise, box breathing, changed my life, improved my ability to manage high stress moments, not perfectly but better and better the more I use oxygen well.

Have fun practising oxygenation exercises, deep breathing and managing your body’s multiple systems to bring about calm under fire, sensibilities when facing pressure, politeness during disagreements and balance when all seems out of balance. 

ALIENATION WATCH – THE LESSER SPOTTED ALIENATION AWARE PROFESSIONAL

Posted on 14/11/2014 by karenwoodall

This week I have been confronted with the dearth of alienation awareness and expertise in the UK field of family services. This is not a surprise to me but what has been surprising if not alarming is the emergence of a new type of professional, the lesser spotted professional if you like (it is coming up to the weekend, humour me).

This lesser spotted professional is someone who for the sake of a few hours training could be the alienation aware professional who knows what to do and how to do it. That this person remains ignorant, not only of what they don’t know but what they do know, is both astounding and terrifying to me in equal measure. This week, on wading through yet another case file, I became aware that the case, which has been bouncing back and forth twixt professionals in public and private law, was actually beautifully described in a section 7 report some SIX YEARS ago. The problem is that the social worker, who wrote so eloquently about the child’s campaign of dislike and hatred, the fused indignation of the child and parent, the furious and unrelenting denigration of the rejected parent, had not the first idea of what she was looking at. And so, concluded, in a pitiful and damning ending to her sixty page description of a severe case of alienation that, the child is the subject of a contact dispute in which both parents are to blame and the child should be left with the preferred parent with no contact now or in the future to the parent rejected by the child. Grim reading. Parentectomy due to lack of awareness of the professional charged with analysis. Little wonder parents in the UK go mad, get bad or simply end their lives because of the intolerable ineptitude of the people charged with safeguarding our children.

The question for me is why do our family services know so little about Parental Alienation and, when they do know something about it, (which clearly the author of this report does, she described it so perfectly) why do they not want to find out more about it. Why, for example, did this social worker, on hearing a child say ‘I wish he would just die’ and ‘I would kill him if I could’ not consider that to be concerning? Why, when a child says that her father should be ‘shot and thrown into the river’ does a social worker not decide that this requires further examination? Why do social workers and other family workers not realise, when they see a child who is utterly determined to uphold the aligned parent’s perspective – to the point of delusion – go on to conclude that this is just a contact dispute. What sort of mind block prevents professionals in family services from understanding the reality for alienated children? Politics? Discriminatory practice? Or simple ‘he said/she said’ fatigue? Whatever it is it is causing our children to become stuck in the most appalling circumstances within the court process, subjected over and over again to professionals who are well meaning but unskilled in the field and to a flimsy court management process which aids and abets institutionalised abuse of children which frankly appalls me.

Parental Alienation is NOT a simple contact dispute, it is, in severe cases, child abuse, nothing more nothing less. In less severe cases, hybrids perhaps or those which are created by naive alienators, it is all too easy for it to trip into child abuse and should always be approached as a case where children are at risk.

And lest you think this is just an all out attack on family support services, let me tell you that I have worked in cases where social workers and CAFCASS officers have approached the problem as a child protection issue. Where those people have really ‘got it’ from the outset and we have worked together to tackle the problem immediately and systemically, bringing change for child rapidly and effectively. Those people are like gold dust (you know who you are) and I salute each and every one of them for there are, in this country, some brave and fearless people who make a massive difference. If only there were more.

The reason there are not more of these people is perhaps answered in the arguments which are raging between parents and state services up and down this land of ours. From the islands to the highlands from the borders to the metropolis, parents are campaigning to have Parental Alienation recognized by the people who serve our families. Pleas which are falling on deaf ears mostly and which receive dismissals and derisory commentary from those who profess to be in the know and who are most certainly in power. How and why is alienation ignored is the question being asked, when is the question I am asking, when will family services recognize the problem of children who are stuck with an angry, vengeful and determinedly alienating parent is not just a contact dispute but a case of child abuse which must be stopped.

That question is one which rattles around my brain as I read through the teeth grindingly painful accounts of social work interactions with families where alienation is alive and kicking. When social workers describe a child who has been ‘spousified’ and who is being used as a confidant and a replacement partner but see nothing to be concerned about in that. When social workers listen to children parroting angry words and untruths about a parent they think deserves to be kicked out forever and hear nothing wrong in that. And when social workers speak only of contact disputes instead of child abuse in the face of those things , the answer to the question appears to be never.

The problem in my view lies in the institutionalised acceptance of disposable parenthood and the notion that family separation is normal and simply something that causes a bit of an upheaval for a while but everyone gets over it eventually. Far from getting over it however, there is a significant cohort of people for whom getting over is not possible and for whom an alternative reality is revenge, cold blooded or otherwise or a definite and distinct unhingement from normal behaviors. And the truth is that everyone goes a little bit mad when they separate. It is after all a most unpleasant and terrifying experience. What everyone doesn’t do however, is hook their children up to their revenge making machine and drop them hook line and sinker into the shittiest parts of adult rage. Most reasonably healthy adults know that this stuff is not for their children. Most people, however mad they go, manage not to take their children with them.

But a significant number of people do and this is where being able to understand this group and differentiate them from the rest of the general family separation cohort is vital for family services. In this group are people with personality disorders, people with rage problems and people with enmeshment and other issues that cause an inability to tell the difference between their own feelings and those of their children. It would seem like basic social work practice to me to be able to recognize those people but judging by the reactions of social workers when confronted with them and by their behaviours, it is easier to not see the reality than see it, name it and deal with it.

And perhaps that last sentence says it all because dealing with it appears to be beyond the capability not only of those who support the family but those who assess the family and those who make judgements in family courts. Clearly recognizing problems is one thing but doing something about it is quite another, perhaps it is this which leads social workers and other family professionals to act like the three wise monkeys when they are confronted with parental alienation, if they see it and hear it but manage not to speak of it, will anyone notice or even really care (apart from the rejected parent who can so easily be picked off with the accusation that they are simply an aggrieved parent who did not get what they wanted in court).

Which leaves us with a generation of children and their families who have been torn apart by parental alienation, who have turned to the courts for assistance and found none and for whom the future looks very bleak indeed.

And all for the sake of a few hours training, a willingness to act and a family court system with enough guts to protect children who are being abused.

The only condition required for evil to flourish is that good people do nothing.

And too many good people, lesser spotted or otherwise are doing nothing at all.

(All readers should note that I am bound by the code of ethics for Experts in the Family Courts as well as by the code of ethics for counselling and psychotherapy. As such each and every case study or reference that I make to my work is heavily disguised to ensure that I do not reveal any of the details of cases I am working on past and present or that any family member with whom I work or professional with whom I am working, could recognize themselves or each other on this blog. As such, my writing refers to real life work but the cases are a patchwork of different elements of cases that I may have or may be working on. I take my responsibilities seriously in the Family Courts, however much I may criticize them and I also take my work as therapist equally seriously. At all times I balance the act of writing and speaking out with my absolute commitment to the rights of families for a fair, just and confidential service. I write because I consider it my duty to raise awareness of alienation and the way in which it is not recognized by family services. Where I see best practice I acknowledge it as I have in this article. I am working for better outcomes for alienated children and their families at all times).

Find more about parental alienation work from Karen’s view at https://karenwoodall.wordpress.com/author/karenwoodall/

Photo credit: quicksandala from morguefile.com

Listen to His Opinion

Many will say, “we need to put the children first”; or “we have to put the children first” however, far too many people and couples are listening to this false, age-old, tired but not true adage to the demise of children’s mental, social, emotional development and overall health. To truly put children as a top priority is to build marriages and families with strong foundation of tried and true core values, beliefs and the behaviours that follow such a firm foundation. The foundations’ strength is to be clear in the actions and communication between family members.
Children don’t simply ‘pop out of thin air’. People meet, get to know each other, date or ‘court’ each other, meet each other’s family and then children come along… so, in fact, they come second.
Oh, don’t get all upset at this point. I do get it… they are so dependent, adorable and need so much, it really does seem like their needs should come first. But, think about it. Unhappy, unhealthy and stressed parents contribute heavily to unhappy, unhealthy and stressed children, thus, attending to the needs of both the individual and couple are central to doing what is best for the children. One may more accurately claim “family comes first”. The claim is only the first step though. Even when separated, parents are well advised to find a way to move past the hurt of romantic breakup and find strategies to develop and maintain a healthy co-parenting relationship.
Next we want to learn, read and get assistance form others to discover or uncover the secrets to building a strong, caring and loving marital relationship and family.

When you would like to get effective help with your specific relationship challenge(s)… contact us today.

Photo credit: ainsliejoon from Morguefile.com
  • Arguing every day about the smallest things.
  • Telling me that my dad is selfish and doesn’t care about anything but himself.
  •  Complaining that mom is an annoying nag, who can’t get a grip.
  • I don’t know whether having both of them at my soccer game shows love and support or shows that our house is like a world war right now.
  • I mean, what are they trying to teach me here? That being married sucks?

Unfortunately, for most children exposed to high-conflict parents, divorce usually does not end the conflict, nor does it end parents’ relationship. Although a romantic relationship is over in divorce, parents remain in a relationship of some sort. Divorce proceedings raise intensity of emotion. Subsequently, can actually heighten conflict between parents, therefore damaging behaviour can be increased in the family and impact all members, especially the children.

It takes intentional, consistent and persistent effort for parents to work together and overcome conflict and establish more appropriate and healthier conflict resolution strategies. A professionally trained mediator or counsellor can help high conflict relationships by coaching to find a common ground and new ways to structure their communication process. When there is much hurt, anger, confusion, frustration and heartbreak, a trained relationship specialist may be just what the doctor orders.

Parents who can put down verbal conflict fairly quickly and put hurt feelings aside can more quickly overcome the grieving component of separation and divorce. It is then more possible for parents to learn the skills required to effectively cooperate. This obviously provides many benefits for healthy child and family development.

Cooperative parenting:

  • Helps reduce the child’s symptoms of stress as parental conflict decreases
  • Creates a more relaxed home environment allowing for children to adjust effectively
  • Enhances the child’s confidence and self-esteem by creating an environment for growth
  • Removes children from the middle letting them relax and be kids
  • Models how to get along with others even though you may not be happy with them

Cooperative parenting also helps parents to;

  • Conserve energy at a stressful and draining time in their life
  • Lower argumentative conversations and increase respectful exchanges
  • Reduce the number of litigated cases
  • Learn better anger management, communication, and conflict resolution skills
  • Work in developing a detailed parenting plan

To create a cooperative, positive parenting plan for your family, book an appointment today.

Photo credit: taliesin from morguefile.com

Photo credit: GaborfromHungary from morguefile.com

Photo credit: presto44 from morguefile.com

Boundaries: What Does It Mean?

BBeing honest and

Oopen. Having

Uunderstanding conversations that

Nnurture positive feelings and thoughts.

Ddetermining your wants and values and

Aassertively helping others become aware of these.

Rrespecting yourself and others by making

I –  intentional efforts to improve your relationships.

Eempathetic and effective communication so all involved feel

Ssafe and secure.

For many couples after separation or a break up, or even those underneath consistent conflict, deciding to reconcile can be difficult to visualize. Sometimes reconciliation does not mean re-establishing a romantic relationship. Some couples choose, after separation, to establish a new relationship for cooperative and positive parenting to take place.

Without a doubt, it is quite difficult for most couples to reach an amicable closure of the romantic part of their relationship. This, however, is an essential step toward effectively developing a positive co-parenting relationship. For some, this may indeed seem almost impossible; moving from a couple once in love to negotiating and implementing a mutually respectful cooperative parenting agreement. Parents interested in the healthiest environment for raising children can benefit from professional coaching to reach this goal as soon as possible after their separation.

Feelings of grief, betrayal, hurt, confusion and disappointment can cloud perceptions, potential for forgiveness and severely limit healthy and clear communication. The identification and development of healthy communication and negotiation processes are central to building an effective co-parenting relationship. This is where boundaries come in to play. While emotions are high, and pools of uncertainty exist, boundaries establish clarity and safe measures to begin the process; deconstructing one part of the relationship while reconstructing another.

Examples of cooperative parenting agreements include guidelines for how and when to talk, what to discuss and with who (e.g. with children, family, friends), when to have flexibility and how to negotiate or renegotiate changes. Additional topics to be worked out include ways to stay child focussed, shared parenting time, drop offs and pick ups, extracurricular activities, holidays and the pre-planned calendar of events.  Boundaries that are firm, with modest flexibility, greatly reduce the chance for disagreements, enhancing the likelihood parents and families will have caring, calm and relaxed “post-separation” relationships. 

For experienced, professional guidance in this area, book your appointment today.

 

Ice Coated Trees – Dec. 2013

Pregnant profile III

How Will I Ever Manage?

We got pregnant and now, just before she is to be born, we’ve split up! Many thoughts and feelings overwhelm me now. Concerns regarding finances, work and being a stable provider flood my mind. Will I be able to provide for our child and provide her with a variety of possibilities? I’m worried about parenting period so now what about “joint” parenting. How will we ever parent together? Can I work with… do I want to work with an “ex” that I couldn’t get along with and now don’t even like?

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I don’t feel good enough to be this child’s parent, especially alone? Will I be nice to her… still holding onto the hurt and pain from this broken relationship? How do I even introduce this father to my baby if he does not want to be around? Is it okay if the father isn’t around?

                   Photo credit: click from morguefile.com

Scared and alone mothers-to-be have valid reasons to be afraid, and they are justified to have such concerns… even more. When a child is raised in a “lone-parent” family, there are increased risks threatening the child’s and family’s health and development. There are still other risk factors, common also in two-parent families, that are magnified in a single parent family. Research indicates clearly that two parent families have a protective quality, both reducing and preventing risks, thus, promoting healthier growth and development. The following research data is not for the faint of heart. Knowing the risks we face or may be facing can often help us take steps to address them and avoid or reduce their impact. Over twenty-five years ago, in the face of a tidal wave of propaganda promoting that a child raised with one parent is not concerning, Barbara Dafoe Whitehead courageously reported the following evidence-based statistics;

“According to a growing body of social-scientific evidence, children in families disrupted by divorce and out-of-wedlock birth do worse than children in intact families on several measures of well-being. Children in single-parent families are six times as likely to be poor. They are also likely to stay poor longer. Twenty-two percent of children in one-parent families will experience poverty during childhood for seven years or more, as compared with only two percent of children in two parent families. A 1988 survey by the National Center for Health Statistics found that children in single-parent families are two to three times as likely as children in two-parent families to have emotional and behavioral problems. They are also more likely to drop out of high school, to get pregnant as teenagers, to abuse drugs, and to be in trouble with the law. Compared with children in intact families, children from disrupted families are at a much higher risk for physical or sexual abuse.”

More recent reports support these findings, as follows:

  • Statistics show that children raised in healthy single parent homes have more problems emotionally and interpersonally, in school and with the law (Stevens, examiner.com, April, 2011).

  • Children from two-parent homes; specifically biological parent homes, typically exhibit more positive development outcomes than single-parent children (Thomas, Global Post, 2014).

  • Children [people] learn how to love from their parents, but if both parents are not there to teach them how to love, their love might be somewhat one-sided (White, Feb. 2011).

Lone parents, custodial parents, primary parents*  may find these previous comments very defeating  (*these terms tend to be more accurate to describe this family type than the age old “single parent” given that the other parent is quite often still involved to some degree, not to mention all the extended family supports which often include other parents). People rarely grow up intentionally planning to become separated, parenting mostly without the support and cooperation of the other parent. This is not how most of us grow up and expect our lives to turn out. So, given the new reality of separation, what needs to be done to improve our lives and the life of our child?

  • Co-Parenting ASAP: Find the strength to make room for the other parent whenever possible and as appropriate.
  • Assemble a Support Team: Whether grandparents, adult siblings, extended family and friends, it is important to decrease feelings of loneliness. This team is always there to support you and your child, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. There is no reason to feel guilt or shame that you cannot manage on your own. This is the purpose of having a team.
  • Readjust your priorities (and don’t forget to have fun): Know that you do not have to be rewarded as a superwoman who can do it all. It is okay to take breaks, drop previous tasks, say no to others, and decrease your work time. It is important to prioritize in such a way that you be healthy.
  • Nurture and set goals for yourself: You have the opportunity to teach your child to create dreams and work for them to become a reality. Qualities of ambition, drive, work ethic, integrity, and responsibility go a long way towards positive development for children.
  • Parent co-operatively: There are seasoned (grey hair suggested), experienced professional counsellors who can help the adults involved decrease animosity, set aside previous struggles and hurt in order to increase effective and positive co-parenting. Developing effective parenting agreements that include clear communication agreements and strategies will improve mental, physical and spiritual health for all involved… even and including extended family.

If you are a “lone parent” (either expecting or have a child(ren) already), there is a lot you can do to reduce the chance of your child becoming a negative statistic. First… Get help! Working alone reduces the likelihood of success. To develop a clear plan, with or without your co-parent, learning the necessary adjustments to promote a healthy and positive development in your child’s life call us today.