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.


Photo credit: Kopfjaeger from morguefile.com

Why Does This Keep Happening?

“I took two years before stepping into another relationship. The previous lasted four years. At the four-year mark, my world was turned upside down. I could honestly say that I cried every day for the first year (although the episodes did decrease in length). I was sad and vowed that I would do things differently the next time.

When the next time came, I remembered to do things differently; however, I never really decided what ‘different’ things I would do. And thinking back, I didn’t think I committed to any behavior changes. I thought I would put a wall up to protect myself from hurt (just in case this relationship also wouldn’t work out).

And to my surprise (really, it was a surprise), this relationship has ended and I feel almost the same as when the previous one ended. I feel like I was stabbed in the back. I feel confused. And worst of all, I feel rejected. I ask myself over and over why I don’t seem to be good enough.”

After the first breakup, perhaps this individual did not consider her feelings of rejection in depth.

“Everyone around me was surprised by the breakup. And questioned how it could be. So yes, I did feel rejected but tried not to dwell in it. With this past relationship, I feel like the ending was so much similar to my previous that rejection is the forefront of my feelings now.”

It’s easy to blame the person doing the “dumping” for the breakup. Many of those in our support system will also want to put blame the one who initiated the breakup, however, the “blame game” is ineffective and, if prolonged, destructive to healthy growth and development.

Introspection (looking inward and examining our own intrapersonal and interpersonal dynamics) can change the way we relate to ourselves and to other people. Following improved self-awareness often comes the realization that just because a relationship ends, does not imply that we are inadequate or inferior. 

Most of the time, space between relationships is a good thing; however, we have to be able to use that time for self-reflection, growth and personal development. Efforts to improve ourselves helps us develop better relationship skills, thus, more satisfying relationships. There are many great resources; self-help books, group work, videos and online training you can use to augment your work with a professional counsellor. For assistance Call us today .

Possible and Impossible are Both Possible?

The outcome depends on our thinking. When lies and betrayal have consumed a relationship, it is common and normal for couples to want to end their relationship. Sometimes the decision to separate is not because there is a lack of love. Most times, it is because the automatic negative thought (ANT) is “It’s over”. Second, it might be that couples have little to no idea how to resolve the difficulties and challenges involved. Of course, few of us are really taught, by parents or school, how to resolve such circumstances or even how to have a great romance.

Once an affair has happened, the deep feelings associated with adultery can feel much like open wounds. The couple is in a crisis state and will often act or react based on how they feel in the moment. Communication can fluctuate between over and under talking about pain, sorrow and grief which make resolutions and healing even more difficult. This is not a great time to make big decisions nor will most of us make good decisions in this type of crisis. Many professional counsellors are trained to assist couples or individuals with the journey ahead, regardless of whether that is to dissolve or resolve the relationship.

So how does a couple get back on track if they decide this is what they want? Is it actually possible for a couple that experience lying, hurt, and betrayal to overcome such hardships and continue a healthy, loving life together? It may seem to be impossible, however it is possible to overcome these challenges, rebuild the relationship and even create a better, healthier relationship than you and your partner had previously. Judith Spring’s book “After the Affair” can also assist and guide couples in their healing and recovery process.

Being in a romantic relationship. of course, is not all roses and butterflies. A true romance is quite likely one of the most magnificent relationships we can have yet, it is also potentially one of the most volatile or painful too when infidelity occurs. Couples face many different obstacles (work-related stress, family conflict, extended family pressures, financial strain, and parenting concerns to name a few). As we move through life’s challenges together, we learn that our core values and morals are quite important in working together and supporting one another through struggles.

Clarifying foundational beliefs are essential for couples who want to successfully recover from adultery. A recovering couple must work together, re-assessing values, facing reality and disclosing and discussing difficult truths, feelings, and experiences that may never have been shared before. Overcoming adultery in a relationship may be one of the hardest obstacles to work through, however, it is possible. Once effectively reconciled, these courageous couples can actually have one of the strongest and most resilient romances on earth.

Before making rash and simplistic decisions based on hurt feelings, call us today to consider your options and find solutions together.

Post Separation Thoughts and Behaviours Really Matter

Let’s consider why we think we may have a difficult time co-parenting with our ex-partners:

  • She/he has an addiction and refuses to get help.
  • Who knows who she/he will have around my child?
  • She/he has repeatedly lied and betrayed our trust.
  • We keep arguing.
  • I feel completely disrespected by my ex-partner, so why should I cooperate?
  • She/he has shown no interest in the care of this child!
  • We didn’t get along before so …

And BREATHE! Now that we have let all that out (and I’m sure we can express quite an extensive list of additional thoughts and feelings associated with our broken relationships), let’s consider just a few of the benefits of effective co-parenting:

  1. Children will feel more secure, relaxed and confident growing up with two involved and cooperative parents;
  2. Enhancement of children’s social, physical, spiritual, intellectual and emotional development;
  3. Parents actually improve their health and development as well;
  4. Positive examples and role models for children by working together through difficulties;
  5. Both of us have the pleasure of being cooperative, compassionate and mutually involved parents;
  6. Extended family members are able to remain more involved;

In his extensive review of the literature on the impact of separation and divorce, conducted for the Department of Justice Canada 2001, Ron Steward highlights  “a study of 51 families with an arrangement for joint physical custody, Steinman et al. (1985) identified a list of factors that lead to successful joint physical custody. Families who successfully maintained joint custody had the following qualities:

  1. respect and appreciation for the bond between the children and former spouse;
  2. an ability to maintain objectivity about the children’s needs during difficult periods of the 
divorce;
  3. ability to empathize with the point of view of the child and the other parent;
  4. ability to shift emotional expectations from the role of mate to that of co-parent;
  5. ability to establish new role boundaries; and
  6. show generally high self-esteem, flexibility and openness to help.” 

Separation or divorce can be an extremely difficult time for parents, and the children and extended family members involved. Feelings are hurt, people often choose sides (even though there are no sides in a family), distance is created (which is a normal part of any separation) and the emotional intensity and practical logistics of separating can inhibit parents’ attention to co-parenting for some time.

Co-parenting does work and is more likely when parents dig deep to develop the qualities listed above. With appropriate training, coaching, planning and practice, both parents will have the opportunity to create amazing lives for themselves, their children and extended family.

To improve your co-parenting by learning the how to strategies – book an appointment with us today!

The Art of Effective Conversation

Communication, when performed effectively, (e.g. calmly, lovingly. sensitively. wisely, respectfully) enhances and fosters positive relationships. However, when done poorly, it leads to communication breakdowns which are draining on those involved. When we have difficulty communicating (causing increased arguments and stress), it is normal for us to feel like giving up.

Poor communication involves certain tendencies or habits that almost everyone resorts to at one point or another. Any of these following communication blockers can inhibit effective discussion, especially during stressful and crucial conversations:

  • Interrupting
  • Ignoring
  • Blame Game
  • Using Sarcasm
  • Insulting/Name Calling
  • Globalizing (i.e., using “always” or “never” statements)
  • Judging
  • Stating opinion as fact
  • Mind Reading/Assuming
  • Advising (i.e., providing solutions without permission)

In the heat of the moment, our body moves into “fight or flight”, a part of which leads to reduced oxygen to the brain. This blocks effective thinking from taking place. Effective communication coaching or counselling helps people identify the triggers in their bodies that prevent rational thinking. It also teaches creative and light-hearted ways to communicate under duress and high stress. Working together, counsellors and people develop strategies to decrease anger and confusion that arises in stressful situations making it more possible to approach tough situations and conversations with appropriate communication techniques.

Therapy also helps individuals, couples and families sort through crucial conversations and create strategies together to resolve conflict and improve relationship satisfaction. Call us today to enhance your communication style!

“New Dad… Nobody Asks Me What I Think?”

I spoke with a young girl today and we were discussing the excitement and anticipation of Christmas. It was approaching fast and this year appears to have gone by so quickly. This was not a counselling session; just a casual conversation with a young friend.

A lot happened in your life this year.

Yah! I guess.

What did you like the most?

Summer time and my birthday pool party.

What didn’t you like so much about this year?

[A lengthened silence prior to her response]

Like… I’m happy to see my mom happy, but I don’t like that she got engaged. I like it but I don’t. I like him, he’s nice. But I don’t know what this means for me. I hear all these plans being made and no one asks how I feel. I’m happy I get to decorate my own room when we move though. Do I have to call him ‘dad’? What about my dad? Now I have two dads?

Sometimes parents attend to their own needs for love and companionship without having open communication with their children. This is especially true when parents determine their children are too young to have these types of conversations. Although we may attempt to keep our children’s best interests top of mind, when selecting and bringing a companion into their lives, it is still important to talk with our children, explore their feelings and concerns along with their positives.

When significant events happen in our lives, the strength of a co-parenting relationship can allow for the entire family to understand and celebrate special times. When the entire family takes part in open conversations, we foster improved understanding of each others’ view points, strengthen our connection as a family, and make adjusting to new members go more smoothly. In other words, we prevent frustrations and potential problems in advance.

Merging families sucessfully and enhancing co-parenting is best done with coaching from professional counsellors.  After twenty years of working with families, experience helps families cope with and adjust to difficult life changes. At Jeff Packer MSW & Associates, areas of support include the following:

  • Helping couples cope with separation/divorce, grieving and adjustment issues
  • Family structure assessment and re-establishing effective roles and rules
  • Establish a co-parenting communication plan and strategy
  • Identify goals for raising children in the most healthy and appropriate manner
  • Create safe and healthy boundaries between co-parents
  • Develop positive relationships with co-parents’ romantic partners
  • Improve communication skills; specifically, conflict resolution and problem-solving
  • Assist with crucial conversations in a non-blaming and accepting environment

Call us today to improve post-separation adjustment and co-parenting relationships. Why? Because you and your children are worth it!

“My Dog Treats Me Better!”

“After years of lies, betrayals, and secrets paired with infidelity and inappropriate sexual behaviours, I ask myself why I’m still here. Why am I still in this relationship? He says he loves me, and I actually trust that he does; however who cares? My dog loves me and treats me way better than he does…and HE’S A DOG! I have never experienced such a magnitude of hurt from any of my family or friends, so why do I put up with this guy?”

We all may be able to relate to “Stephanie” to some degree. Romantic relationships are difficult to maintain and even more difficult to cope with when the relationship is in trouble. When trust has been broken, couples spiral through a crisis and without healing and recovery work, often begin the dynamic or pattern of living crisis to crisis. This is often referred to as a chaotic or crisis-oriented relationship.

Stephanie’s dilemma is common in that we tend to compare our romantic relationships, albeit without sufficient facts or data, to those of our friends, family members and even to examples from popular media and literature. Our perceptions and misperceptions of others’ relationships colours our view of “what intimacy should be”, often leading to us setting the expectations for our relationships too high. With limited and inaccurate information, our expectations can easily become unrealistic, gradually contributing to worsening and even quite hurtful communication.

Of course, when our intimate relationships are in a crisis state, like Stephanie, we start to question why we are still in the relationship. By obtaining more accurate information about relationships and doing some analysis, we can improve our understanding and thus our ability to resolve relationship troubles. Robert Sternberg from the University of Wyoming, proposes the “love triangle” framework in which he presents love’s three main dimensions: intimacy, commitment, and passion and the seven relationship types below have more or less of these qualities (Psychology Today).

When couples consider their place in this model, they can identify their relationship to one of 7 types of relationships (Psychology Today):

  • Consummate (the highest form): a high regard on all three dimensions of the love triangle
  • Infatuated: high on passion only
  • Fatuous: high on passion and commitment
  • Empty: high on commitment only
  • Companionate: high on intimacy and commitment
  • Romantic: high on intimacy and passion
  • Liking/friendship: high on intimacy only

Some couples experiencing a crisis in their relationship escape, withdraw or give up. Consideration toward getting assistance and more research-based analysis helps individuals and couples understand the dynamics underlying their dilemma. This then helps us negotiate the type of relationship we want to achieve and navigate the journey to it. Couples counselling can create a space to work together to heal the hurt, achieve goals, rebuild trust and, ultimately, get the loving relationship you want.

Let us help! Book your appointment with us today!