“Arguments, conflict and fighting are just a normal part of life,” well that’s how some adults who happen to be parents see it. And whilst it is true that conflict and disagreements are a part of life, does it mean that it’s okay to subject your children to it?
Do you remember being a child?
Do you remember seeing the the big people – the people who you looked up and thought highly of – fighting or having loud aggressive arguments?
Hopefully you did not. Or the disturbances you witnessed were rare and short lived!
But if you recall any of those moments, how did you feel?
The likelihood is that you felt frightened, nervous, anxious and confused. They certainly do not leave you with pleasant memories. But as I say, if they are rare you have likely been spared the worst type of harm.
Unfortunately many parents of children today have not been that lucky and as a result neither have their children.
Children who are exposed to arguments, aggression and verbal and physical violence are impacted in a number of ways.
Some children become depressed and go into themselves. Others begin to act out the aggression they witness onto others. Often it affects your child’s physical and emotional development and prevents them from developing to their potential and gaining the most from their education.
But these are some of the short term effects, the longer term ones are more damaging and have longer lasting consequences.
If you have seen a lot of conflict and domestic abuse in your childhood, over a period of time you will have become de-sensitised to it and it will have become a normal feature of your life.
This does not mean in any way that you have not been harmed by it. All it means is that you are past the point of showing, or more to the point , of being aware of the impact it has had on you.
It will manifest itself by the conflict you show to your partner/s and to others and the devastation or destruction that tend to follow people who have seen too much violence in their early and formative years.
What you are really doing unwittingly, when you expose your children to abuse and violence, is giving them the message that it’s okay to be aggressive or violent and it teaches them that this is the way they should be.
Sadly, for the most part when children learn this message throughout their childhood, they tend not to unlearn it when they reach adulthood and more worryingly they see no reason to change their behaviour when they become parents and inevitably pass on their harmful experiences onto those they love.
If you’ve ever had a relationship that’s gone badly wrong, it’s not at all uncommon for you to experience a lack of trust or faith in your capacity to form suitable relationships or choose appropriate partners.
The fact that you’ve had an unsuccessful relationship doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily a bad judge of character. Or that there are no other good men or women out there for you. It may not mean anything of the sort, sometimes couples just aren’t meant to be together and it doesn’t have to be a reflection on your judgement.
Of course if it happens time and time again, you’re going to need to ask yourself what lesson life is trying to teach you.
I always say that it’s really vitally important to think about and choose as wisely as you can when you decide to begin a relationship. I say this because sometimes the partners you choose can either have a very positive impact on your life or they can quite literally ruin your life and be the cause if you allow them to.
Whilst to some of you this may seem extreme, others will know from their own experience or that of others that there are some ex=partners that you can never turn your back on even when the relationship has been over for many years.
If you have ever been involved with a partner who is controlling and abusive either physically or emotionally, you will know what I’m talking about.
You know the type, it’s all about them, they may take you to court or you may have to take them but it’s not about the child really, it’s simply about power and control and the fact that one of the easiest ways to maintain a form of control over someone they used to control is to keep the conflict and control current. In that way the other partner is never able to get on with their life and move on the way they would wish to.
In such situations you really have to make up your mind how best to deal with an ex-partner whose mind is focused on vengeance and how you are going to be able to get on with your life.
If he or she was a highly controlling or manipulative person, it may well be that you require some form of counselling or therapy before you move on to meet a new partner. This is because often the impact of their behaviour over a period of time has left you ill equipped, lacking in confidence and the emotional resources to start all over again.
It is important that you close the chapter on your old relationship and work towards emotional closure of the earlier relationship.
There is a lot to be said for taking your time if and when you meet somebody new. There never is any reason to rush in or feel overwhelmed . Take your time, if they value you and your feelings they will respect you enough to give you the time you need to make sure you feel okay about everything or the speed with which things are moving.
You need to feel that you have an important say in your life as regards the relationship, just as they will. In the event that you take your time to find out who your new partner is, you will be in a much better position to make an informed decision about whether or not to take the relationship any further.
Hov do you talk about your child?
How often have you heard parents talk about their child as if their child were more of a possession than a human being with the same wishes, feelings, dreams, hopes and aspirations that we all share.
There is often a tendency to see the child you care for or brought into this world with the other parent as totally yours.
Mothers sometimes because of the way motherhood is looked at in this society can be inclined to think and act as if there views are the only ones that count.
Obviously I’m not referring to all mothers, since many mothers do and want to share the care and parenting of their child with their partner or child’s father.
Some fathers also show a proclivity to present as though they are the only ones who know best for their son or daughter.
However, irrespective of your relationship with your child it’s important to bear in mind from their earliest age that your child needs to continually thought about as being their own person and both parents have a joint responsibility in caring for their child/ren.
The job of being a parent, will in my view always pose numerous challenges, but one of the key roles of a parent is to teach by example. In other words teach your child by the way you behave and live your life, how to grow into healthy, independent adulthood.
In order to do this well, I believe you have to be able to see your child’s needs, wishes, feelings etc. as being totally separate from yours. Equally, if you have more than one child you have to be able to recognise the different needs, personalities etc. of your children and keep their thoughts and feelings at the forefront of your mind consistently.
Now for most parents this is obvious, but there are parents who are not as able to see this as others.
We all have blind spots and there are people who may be so into themselves or so caught up in intense feelings following a separation that they simply can’t differentiate sufficiently their feelings from those of their child/ren.
How do you ensure that you keep your children’s wishes and feelings in mind?
Well, one way may be to think about yourself and the range of different wants and expectations you may have given any aspect of your life. This may help you to question yourself about how open you are to thinking about such matters in relation to your child.
Another possible helpful way of ensuring you remain mindful of your child’s wants etc. might be to spend some time reflecting on your childhood. It may be that your parent, for whatever reason, didn’t take the time to sufficiently consider the things that were important to you as a child. If this is the case you may be able to use your experiences as a guide to help you become more focused on what’s important to your child/ren.
Too often parents forget or neglect to take the time to fully consider their child’s feelings and this has disastrous consequences for your child’s long term health and wellbeing.
Your child’s self-esteem can easily be undermined as a result of one or both of their parents failure to acknowledge and ant in accordance with their most important needs.
It’s vital that parents develop and maintain appropriate boundaries, in other words no where their wants start and end and their child’s begin.
Positive or high self-esteem and feeling good about yourself are crucial factors in helping you achieve whatever you want to achieve. Just think about it. If you don’t think you can do something, how motivated are you to even try. The lower your self-esteem, the less you actually achieve or even try to achieve.
How many people do you know who have children who willingly admit that they are not good parents?
Let’s face it, we all want to think that we are good parents, even when we sometimes are aware that we need to be better for our children’s sake.
But parenting is a difficult task and sometimes, in fact often when you have experienced a break up, it’s really hard to remain focussed and put your child/rens needs first on a consistent basis.
The nature of break-ups is such that you can’t help but lose your footing for a while, making you stumble and fall. Frequently it means that you stay on the ground for a while or get up on shaky, unsteady legs.
You can think of a break-up, being akin to living on a stable, secure piece of land, one day and the next falling between the cracks that have opened up a massive fissure at the base of exactly where you used to live.
From that moment on all the things that you used to be able to take for granted are no longer possible. What was has passed and now you’re going to have to deal with and become accustomed to a new way of life.
But before you try to become accustomed to a new life you’re going to have to cope with the feelings left over from your earlier or recent relationship.
This is rarely easy and takes a lot of time, effort and energy.
Some people try to pretend that they don’t have any feelings for or about their previous partner and think they can simply move on to pastures new, but in time realise that it doesn’t quite work that way and especially if you’ve got children together.
There really is a lot to think about when you come out of a relationship and one of the most crucial things to take enough time to consider is how your child/ren feel about, understand and are adjusting to their parents break-up.
So at a time when you might naturally be inclined to think about your wants needs and feelings, you’re going to have to spend a lot of time thinking about where your child/ren are at
You’re going to have to keep at the forefront of your thoughts that your children are just that and are not able to shut off their feelings about one or both of their parents, or make sense of what’s happened the way adults can.
You have to realise that for children, you and their other parent have provided them with a way of life that has become their norm – that you both as parents are not only their introduction to life, you are their example of the way life should be. To say that children look up to their parents is really a massive understatement.
So when your relationship comes to an end, for your children it can feel like their whole world has ended.
However small or large it may feel for you; for your child it’s like an earthquake and they will need your time, empathy, patience and consistent consideration to help them through this very testing time.
To be a good parent means to be able to constantly put yourself in your child’s shoes and behave according to what is in their best interests in the long term; even though you’ve got all your adult thoughts, feelings and responsibilities to constantly attend to.
It helps to bear in mind that your children are more the victims of a break up than you or your ex partner. After all they did not initiate the break-up, all they are is affected by it.
I don’t know about you, but I remember a relationship I had with the mother of my child where I was constantly arguing with her about what I considered were her stupid views about life and relationships.
When I look back at it now it said so much about how ill suited we were as a couple.
She was much more interested in looking good and presenting as though she were wealthy. It was all about the material things, whereas I was much more concerned with the type of person we were inside.
Much of the relationship was spent arguing with each other about who was right and who was wrong. And I remember thinking that she would one day see or learn that I knew what I was talking about.
Our relationship really consisted of little more than physical attraction.
We were good in the bedroom together but not at anything else.
In hindsight, now years later I realise that although I felt I loved her at the time, I didn’t like her very much and I seriously doubt that she liked me.
Although we had a child together early in our relationship, probably far too early for the wellbeing of our relationship, there was really nothing going on between us that was worthwhile.
It was just a constant battle, with two people who were in competition with each other. Not supporting each other or sharing the care of our child in a meaningful and nurturing way.
Well…needless to say that relationship didn’t last long. It was very painful, but when I look back at it now one of the things that jumps out at me was the share amount of time I spent arguing with someone who means little to me now.
She is still the mother of my child and my child will always mean the world to me but her mother means nothing personally to me (although she means a great deal to my child)
So why did I spend the time I did arguing with someone I should have been close to?
I did it because I didn’t know any better for me or my child or even for her.
I thought, stupidly that I knew more that her and that she would know that one day and come round to my way of thinking.
What a waste of time for all concerned, not least of all our child.
What I have now come to realise is that when your life is all about arguments, even if your argument is more thought out than theirs; even if you’re cleverer at arguing than your partner. It doesn’t make any difference in the end.
You’re not winning anything you’re all losing and it’s as simple and as sobering a thought as that.
I have learnt to let go of winning arguments or even trying to win arguments.
I’ve learnt that all I want to win our the people’s hearts that mean the world to me.
Imagine being a little boy or girl aged maybe four or five.
Your life goes along a certain path and you’re pretty much content with it because you don’t know any different. You see your mum and your dad daily and maybe even extended family every once in a while.
Then one day something’s happened you don’t know what but all of a sudden you can’t and don’t see one of your parents anymore.
How do you think you feel about that?
Does it matter to you as a kid that your mum had an affair, or your dad verbally and sometimes physically bullied your mother?
Answer: Not whilst you’re a child no. Those are grown up, adult concerns they don’t concern you as a little boy or a girl.
But what does concern you?
What hurts so much that you try to cut it out of your thoughts because it causes you so much pain?
Well…it’s when you miss your mum or your dad so bad because there was a secret, invisible bond between you…that meant the world to you. And as a young child, not knowing any different you thought it would always be there, but now your bond is being broken hour by hour, day by day and there’s nothing you can do about it because you’re just a kid.
In no time at all you begin to believe that your missing parent never loved you. Because if they loved you how could they ever leave you. You begin to think that no matter what anyone else says, that the fact is that you’re not lovable.
How could you be? If you were that parent who you loved would still be with you day and night.
It’s really easy for the parent you live with to turn you against the other parent and if they have no scruples, if they care only really about themselves they will do so.
But if they really care about you they’ll make every effort to allow you to have a relationship with the other parent. And that missing parent if they really care about you will make every effort to remain in your life as best they can.
Do you know why?
Because no matter who you are, you need to know who your parents are. To grow up not knowing who one of your parent’s is or was leaves a hole in you.
You might say you can’t miss what you never had but try telling that to your child who sees his friend’s parents daily taking them to and from school.
Even as a little tiny child, you desperately want a great relationship with your mum or dad, whoever your most attached to. And though you don’t know it consciously as a child, your greatest fear is that you’ll be abandoned.
This is the stuff that breaks little girl’s and boys and follows them around throughout their adult lives destroying their relationships, holding them in a grip that rarely ever leaves them, like mum or dad did.
The problem with adults…well one of them at least is that we forget what it’s like to be a little child and see things from their viewpoint.
It’s almost difficult to know where to start because in my view there are so many problems associated with the private law family court that it’s not easy to know where to begin.
Perhaps it doesn’t matter.
My partner (who had been dragged through the family court for years simply because she’d had the temerity to leave the father of her child) once asked me a couple of years after her child had reached the age of sixteen, who from the courts is there to pick up the pieces brought about from the devastation they were subjected to from the child’s other parent, after the court process has come to an end.
And the truth is, that the courts aren’t. They consider it’s their role to make a decision and then leave you and the other parent to get on with it.
Now this is fine, when as the court’s expect, you are both reasonable well meaning parents, but of course the reality is that a number of parents just don’t fit that profile.
Even when it should or would be abundantly clear to anyone with an inquiring mind what the motives of some parents are if the court bothered to allow parents sufficient time to argue and put their case, this does not happen and children and parents are left very short changed by a system that’s meant to be about the wellbeing of the child but in my view consistently fails to do anything more than meet its own needs.
The failure of the family court to give even a cursory amount of attention to past events and allocate sufficient time to each case is in my view and I believe many parents’ views also, one of their biggest failings because the decisions made by the court are frequently made by hearing scant information which barely scratches the surface of what’s really going on.
The family court looks to Cafcass as the experts to make decisions which are in the child’s best interests. But all Cafcass really do is check that there aren’t safeguarding issues. When they check that there aren’t safeguarding issues they just check the obvious matters… in other words have either parent come to the attention of the police or authorities.
This however means that huge numbers of parents who are clever enough to avoid becoming involved with the police are free to wreak carnage in the lives of their children and ex partner’s.
Frankly Cafcass and the courts have this set view that children should see both parents throughout their minority, which in itself is not, in my opinion wrong, but when applied indiscriminately across the board without looking into the details or merits of each case far more thoroughly; merely gives rise to more problems and harm than they appear to either realise or care about.
Anyone who has ever studied human nature knows that history is one of the key or prime indicators of future events. This does not mean, of course that people don’t or can’t change, but it takes concentrated and consistent effort to change ingrained habits and habits related to how you behave and treat others, just like other habits, tend to endure.