How counselling supports couples with young families
By Joanna Harrison, Visiting Clinician
Part of our 70th Anniversary series of blogs.
At Tavistock Relationships, we often see couples who seek help following the birth of a baby. It’s not an easy time to seek help, what with the intensity of life with a new baby. However, in our experience, it is a very helpful point at which to look for some care and support for the relationship and one that can enhance life not just for the couple but also for the whole family.
Difficulties that a couple might have at this point in their lives are very common. With the arrival of a baby, couple time often becomes impossible or at the very least de-prioritised due to lack of hours in the day and lack of energy. Couples can start to feel disconnected – not only emotionally but also physically in relation to their sex life. It is a cruel trick of nature that at the point at which parents are grappling to deal with a new baby they are also probably more tired than they have ever been. It is a fertile ground for arguments to flare up in.
Not only is it a tired time, it can be an anxious time. Worries might run high about how to be a good parent. Some couples find that having generally felt they shared values and had the same idea about things before having children, they then feel they come up against their partner’s different ideas about parenting and this can become a difficult and painful area to have to grapple with and which can arouse strong emotions.
Becoming parents can also stir up feelings about one’s own parents and the way they were parented themselves – some of which are not uncomplicated – for some, old disappointments may be given a fresh airing and this can seep into the climate of a couple. Dealing with each other’s parents isn’t always easy and this can often spark off tensions between the couple.
The journey to parenthood is undoubtedly difficult and we also work often with couples where the road has felt particularly challenging for example where there has been difficulty conceiving, IVF, a difficult birth or post-natal depression. All of these can add to the strain on the couple and their feelings about being new parents and their feelings about each other.
With all these pressures to cope with and process, the couple relationship can feel overloaded and under stress. In working with new parents we try to give them a supportive space in which to think about their story and where any tensions and difficulties can be thought about. It is an environment where parents can actually look after themselves – something that is very difficult as a new parent – and think about what they are having to cope with and what they need.
It isn’t easy finding the time, especially if both parents are working and time with a baby or child is precious and childcare is hard. We understand this and will try to work with a couple to find a time that is doable for the couple (sometimes even during the working day). Whether short term, or long term, we see that the sessions will be an investment for the family for the future.
We can offer general counselling in weekly sessions or in some circumstances it may be possible to work online or in a group with other parents. If we feel that actually couple counselling isn’t going to be right at this point we will help to refer you onto other services which may be of help.
To find out how to arrange to see a specially trained couples therapist, visit our relationships counselling page, for clients in London.
For couples and individuals in the rest of the UK or internationally, we offer an online couple counselling service.