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How Break-Ups Can Affect Parenting

Sad looking siblings with arguing parents behind themHow 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.

Letting Go Of Winning

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.

A Child’s Point of View

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.

The Trouble With The Family Court

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.

What Does It Mean To Be A Parent?

You probably think you know all about what being a parent entails, especially if you are already one or have been so for quite some time.
It’s difficult for parents to admit to themselves or others that perhaps their parenting needs to improve in certain ways.
Every couple who are blessed with the ability to be able to produce a child automatically become parents but what actual preparation if any do couples receive when they’re expecting a child?
It’s still the case that barring physical or gynaelogical problems, pretty much any couple can give birth to a child. So physically you may be capable of producing children but does this say anything about your readiness together or singularly to give your child the type of care and nurturing environment that they need in order to grow up to be healthy, independent and reaching their potential?
If I’m honest, I know that I was not ready when I first became aware that the woman I was cohabitating with was expecting our first child together.
I look back at that time now and realise how very unprepared I was in a number of ways to take on the role of being a parent.
Just who did I think I was?
I wasn’t ready for the type of commitment with my partner and mother of my child. I wish in hindsight that I had been but the fact of the matter is that I wasn’t.
As a result of my own immaturity everyone suffered. My child suffered because I behaved in ways which lead to the break up of the relationship with the mother of my child. This meant that I didn’t see her every day, since I no longer lived with her.
I was no longer able to play the type of role that I wanted to play with my child. To be with them all the time, care for them, safeguard them, teach, play, discipline and love them.
It wasn’t long before my ex partner got a new partner and now my child was going to have a step parent.
That was very difficult to deal with and something I had never even considered when I was behaving in a manner which gave the mother of my child no option than to end the relationship.
With a new man on the scene I had to begin to grow up fast. I had to learn to stop thinking about my unhappiness and focus on helping my child cope with seeing me every weekend and coping with a man who saw things very differently than I did.
For quite some time I was in conflict with my ex and her new partner. We didn’t see eye to eye initially and to an extent I blamed my ex for getting involved with someone who smoked cannabis, which was something at one stage she would not have condoned.
But on reflection and over time I realised that when you separate, you get involved with who you get involved with and that although I didn’t like the thought of cannabis being round my child, there wasn’t a lot I could do about it.
I had to let all of those feelings go as long as my child was being cared for properly and for the most part she was.
My role was to be consistent such that my daughter always knew that when I said I was coming I invariably did so. I also made sure I played as important a role I could in my child’s health and educational needs.
It has taken me a long time to realise that your role as a parent never ends, it changes over time as your child grows and develops but once a parent always a parent – until the day you die and perhaps beyond.
My early experiences taught me many things but most of all, I learnt that as a parent you have to learn to see things from your child’s point of view. It’s no longer all about me, when you love your child it’s all about them and meeting their needs.
It involves thinking about your behaviour and the examples you are setting your child by the way you behave and about recognising that you’re in a very responsible and powerful position in relation to your child.
Being a parent is not always about doing everything right, but hopefully it’s about learning from your mistakes and being both honest enough and willing to admit where you were wrong and put what you can right.

What is a McKenzie Friend?

A McKenzie Friend is an officially accepted legal term describing people who help litigants in person (LIP’s) during or throughout their court case.
A litigant in person is merely someone who is not represented by a solicitor or legal representative.
So, how can a McKenzie Friend help litigants in person?
They can help with providing the LIP with information and practical support regarding making applications, completing forms, assisting with communication, advising on the most appropriate strategies to support the LIP’s application, writing or helping with court statements and attending court.
Can the court refuse to permit your use of a McKenzie Friend?
Well, in almost all cases LIP’s are entitled to have the support of a McKenzie Friend.
You can really only be refused under exceptional circumstances such as circumstances in which the judge decides that in the interests of justice and fairness that the LIP should not receive such assistance.
The final decision of course rests with the judge, but there is a strong presumption in favour of LIP’s receiving this support.
If you want a McKenzie Friend to accompany you to court you have to contact the court and inform them as soon as possible, including indicating the identity of the McKenzie Friend.
The proposed McKenzie Friend is required to produce a short statement or curriculum vitae outlining their relevant experience and making it clear that he or she has no interest in the case and understands both the role and duty of confidentiality.
Just so that you are aware, witnesses in court proceedings cannot be a McKenzie Friend and of course family members would not be suitable since they would likely have an interest in the case.
So, who can be a McKenzie Friend?
As a McKenzie Friend does not need to be someone who is legally qualified, they can be either lay or professional people.
What role can McKenzie Friends play at court?
McKenzie Friend’s are not allowed to speak at court(they do not have “rights of audience”) or play any part inside or outside the court with regard to the other party. Their role is confined to whispering to the LIP, prompting him or her, taking notes and helping with the organisation of court papers.
Only in exceptional circumstances may a judge grant a McKenzie Friend “rights of audience” – the McKenzie Friend would then be allowed to address the court and conduct the LIP’s case for him or her.
The McKenzie Friend role was set out clearly in the 1970 case – McKenzie Vs McKenzie.
For further information about the role please consult the Practice Note 3/2012 McKenzie Friends (Civil and Family Courts)

Valuing Absent Parents

This post may be more personal than normal because I’m going to talk a little about my background.
I grew up not with a mother and father, but with my mother because my parents separated sometime during my formative years.
I do know however, that during my first few years of life that I was attached mostly to my father.
It took me years to figure this out and I didn’t actually realise this until just a few years ago.
So why am I telling you this?
Because, I now realise many years later, just how profound those early formative years were in shaping much, if not all, of my life.
I grew up with something inside of me urging me to meet my dad. I didn’t understand it, I only knew as a teenager that I had to meet with him gain.
I did meet with him some three or four times, whilst he was alive.
For those of you who are curious about my view of him. As a person he had a magnetic personality that was hard not to warm to, but as a father he left much to be desired.
What it has taken the vast majority of my life to realise is that my first attachment was hugely significant as it is for virtually all of us in one way or another.
For me losing the person I was most attached to at early age meant that it affected all my relationships with women until I was able to fully understand what was going on inside of me.
But that’s another story!
The important thing I want to highlight in relation to this post is that (although my first attachment was with my dad)I was fortunate enough to have a mother, who did not run down or berate my father – at least not in her children’s presence.
She was not a child care professional or someone educated specifically about the needs of children, but she was incredibly warm and empathic.
Instinctively she knew and cared about her children enough to know that, she would harm us by talking derogatively about our father. Because however you look at it your children are part of you and a part of the other parent.
It would have been very easy for her to have warped our thoughts about our father but she never did and for that reason and many others we are so grateful we had the mother we did.
But what’s the significance of this for you?
It could’ve been that we grew up with our father and our mother was the absent parent, or the parent that for one reason or another we did not see.
The point I’m making is that if you have the main task of caring for your child without the other parent, it is a huge responsibility and you have to recognise that whilst your children are young you can easily warp the way they think about the other parent. But in doing so you will inevitably be harming them and your actions are highly likely to have long term negative consequences for your children.
When children don’t see the other parent, whether there’s a good reason for their absence or not, children can’t help but believe that it means that they aren’t loved and this plays havoc with their sense of security, identity, their emotional wellbeing, and mental and physical health.
Many parents feel they have a right to talk negatively about the other parent due to whatever went on in their relationship, but when you do this you’re only harming your child.
Leave them in their own good time to find out who their other parent is. In damaging their view of the other parent you also damage and undermine their view of those of the same gender as the missing parent. Whether your children are girls or boys.
To grow up to be as healthy as possible children need a sense of balance and you are best person to give them this.

What Does It Mean To Be A Father?

  • Is parenting best left to mothers or should fathers be playing a full and active part?
    Your position on this question may very well be affected by your own childhood experiences and the way your parents or main carer parented you throughout your formative years.
    Although for each of us our experiences may differ in a variety of ways, for a number of reasons, I would argue that there is a very pressing need for fathers to play an empathic, nurturing, responsible and guiding role in the lives of their children.
    In my view there are many fathers who would want to be ‘good fathers’ and play and active and supportive role with their child and the mother of their child whether they, as parents, were together or not.
    It is equally true, in my opinion, that there are lots of men out there who have physically fathered a child, but who have very little idea of how to parent them well and show virtually no commitment to learn how to improve the care they give to their children.
    Sadly, for many children there are father’s out there who show no commitment whatsoever to their child. Father’s who do not know or have no understanding of how their behaviour impacts on their children; not just currently, but more seriously in the longer term involving harmful consequences for their children’s future.
    Some of these same fathers would argue it is their right to do what they want with their children believing that they know how to treat them.
    But what does being a ‘good father’ really entail?
    I would say that it involves being with your child from their earliest moments on a consistent basis. It maybe for whatever reason that you have split up with the mother but you need to be a consistent figure in your child’s life in whatever way you can be.
    It’s no good seeing your child every day some weeks and then not seeing them again until months down the road. For a child to grow up healthily they need your consistency, which eventually becomes their ability to be consistent.
    But that’s not all they need, they need you to bear them in mind all the time. Yes, that means even when the mother is really p…ing you off; when someone cuts you up whilst driving (whether your child’s present or not); when you’re out with your mates drinking to excess or using drugs that impair your judgement; or even when you see a stunning woman that ‘knocks you off your feet’ you still have to think about them all the time, being mindful of how what you do will directly or indirectly impact on them.
    As a father one of the most important things you can do is show and tell your children how much you love them. This is not about being effeminate or weak, your children need all the love they can get and in particular whether your child is a boy or a girl they need you, their father, to show them that you love them.
    So many adults today are weaker, less healthy, less stable and secure as a direct result of the lack of love and care they received from their fathers.
    They will also need this love and demonstration of love in ways that are appropriate and that they can understand because all too often the image of men in society is one which supports the view of men being aggressive, selfish, violent and uncaring.
    It is this view which further perpetuates the view that men or fathers have less of a role to play in their children’s lives. This view hurts not only children, but fathers and mothers also.
    Your children need your maleness, your resolve and determination to guide and prepare them for adult life, but they also need your gentleness, patience and humility. They need all of what it means to be a man and a father. All fathers have masculine and feminine traits (just as women have both feminine and masculine sides) and your children require both sides of you to grow up healthy and strong.

  • When Love Turns To Hate

    Picture this scene: a woman is facing her partner and father of her children, just as she has faced him many times in the past. But today she isn’t staring at him longingly, with the look of love and affection, instead she is glaring at him with the unmistakable expresion of disgust in her eyes.When she talks to him – and that requires a major effort on her part – she can barely contain her anger and vitriol that spews from her lips. 

    Whatever has gone on or happened between them to bring about this complete turn around in her feelings, appears lost on her partner who protests his innocence and seems oblivious concerning what exactly has lead up to her sudden change of heart. For him it makes no sense, as far as he is concerned nothing has happened in the recent past to explain her total change of feelings towards him. He’s been the same as always. If anyone’s changed it’s her not him.

    Fast forward just a few weeks or even days and now the male partner has begun to respond to her in a similar way that she behaves towards him; any laughter or warm communication between them, even in the presence of their child/ren now seems for either of them ‘a bridge too far’ for them to attempt. to cross.

    The scenario is not an unfamiliar one with many couples having experienced similar types of conflict or problems.

    But whose to blame you might ask?

    Is it the woman because it sounds like she’s the one who has changed?

    Or is it the man, who has failed to recognise that something has gone on that has so effectively soured their relationship?

    Does it matter? Surely the point is that their relationship is heading in one direction – spiralling out of control, speeding towards destruction and the appropriate question for them to ask themselves is not who is to blame, but what are they or can they do about their failing relationship!

    The problem for most couples who reach this point is that they don’t as a couple recognise the dire state of their relationship soon enough. By the time it reaches the point.outlined above, it may already be too late to rectify or resolve it.

    Too many couples who face such situations go down the road of trying to find the person to blame, instead of acknowledging their individual and joint responsibilities and genuinely trying to learn from the circumstances they find themselves in.

    In our scenario above, it seems likely that the woman’s feelings will have been deteriorating over a period of time. She may have tried in some way to improve the relationship or bring her concerns to his attention but if or when this did not yield the results required she may have grown increasingly withdrawn and resentful.

    The man on the other hand may simply have expected things to continue along the same path as they have always done, with out change and incorrectly assumed that her silence or compliance meant that she was happy with things the way they were.

    One of the chief things this couple may have failed to do is to both listen to each other and communicate effectively. Couples need to appreciate that if one person is unhappy in the relationship that it needs to either change in some way or it’s unlikely to survive.

    The woman perhaps, being aware she was unhappy within it needed to take charge of it and explain what needed to happen from her point of view in order to set their relationship on a safer path. In this way it would have brought the concerns to light earlier before she became extremely dissatisfied with it.

    But this is not about blaming anyone because firstly blaming others is unhelpful and secondly because the man perhaps could have picked up from her expressions and body language that she was unhappy about aspects of the relationship and taken reposnsibility of making appropriate changes well before it reached the danger point.

    What has to be appreciated that men and women do things very differently, men generally expect women to be direct, whereas women are generally more subtle and indirect. Neither is right or wrong; it’s simply about realising that you have differences and working together in ways that respect and value each other’s differences and that result in successful negotiation and renegotiation of the relationship.

    Failure on the part of one or both to work together to resolve differences in a positive way leads inevitably to the destruction of your relationship and can be incredibly distressing to your children.

    Both parties need to demonstrate their ability to be empathic to each other as well as their children, if they are going to pave the  way to long term happy family relationships..

    What Does Good Parenting Consist Of?

    It’s important to say from the outset that there is no such thing as ‘perfect parenting.’ There is no such thing, because we are all human and have strengths as well as weaknesses.
    That being the case however, irrespective of our strengths as a parent we can all learn to be better parents or improve the way we parent our children.
    So what’s entailed in being a good parent?
    What is noted below is not an exhaustive list, but I hope it provides you with clear ideas or guides which make your job of caring for your child in the longer term easier for you and most importantly beneficial for your child/ren.
    It’s essential that you demonstrate your ability to place your child’s needs before those of your own or anyone else’s. Many parents will tell you that they put their child’s needs first, but when you take the time to explore what they do in practice, you can often find that this is not exactly true.
    This is not because parents mean to behave in this way, it’s often more to do with their lack of ability to see things from their child’s point of view. Or to separate their child’s views and feelings from that of their own.
    Parents vitally need to be empathic, such that they develop their insight to enable them to put themselves in their child’s position and act in accordance with their child’s wishes and feelings, whenever such views are in their best interests.
    Parents also need to be able to offer their children clear routines and boundaries. Children need to establish physical routines such as eating, bathing and sleeping regularly and appropriately. They, in addition, require guidance about for example what good manners entails and what type of behaviour they should seek to emulate.
    Good parenting involves being able to communicate effectively with your child such that your child knows and understands in a way appropriate to their age and level of understanding what they should and should not be doing and why this or that behaviour isn’t suitable.
    Good parenting is about meeting your child’s needs, not just today but throughout their childhood. This necessarily implies that parents need to have the ability to be flexible and remain well attuned to their child’s needs as they grow, change and develop.
    Good parenting is about keeping at the forefront of your mind what’s best for them, such that even when you don’t get on or have fallen out of love with the other parent that you still have the insight to know that how you speak about or to the other parent has a powerful impact on your child’s feelings and the type of person and parent they become.
    Being a ‘good parent’ requires you to be consistent and is often emotionally taxing and time consuming, but in the long term your investment and hard work may yield dividends and benefits that you will enjoy for a lifetime.