Andrew Balfour Chief Executive of Tavistock Relationships, discusses the important findings of the report "What About Me?" Reframing Support for Families following Parental Separation by the Family Solutions Group and highlights a new initiative, the Parents Promise.
How can couples help limit the damage of separation on children? A report published last autumn by the Family Solutions Group (https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/FamilySolutionsGroupReport_WhatAboutMe_12November2020-2.pdf-final-2.pdf) highlighted the damage being done to the futures of an estimated 280,000 per year children as a result of long and protracted separations between parents involved in the family court system.
At Tavistock Relationships, we very much welcomed this report and the strong emphasis paid in the report’s recommendations to the use of parenting and relationship support in helping separated couples. For example, the report stated: “Attendance by parents at a registered parenting programme to become the norm following separation.” We would welcome this as part of the implementation of the new divorce legislation.
In addition, the report turned the spotlight on how, as a society, we look at relationships in the context of family conflict, not only parenting:
”Addressing the emotional landscape in family disputes has the potential to transform the futures of the parents and children involved. We recommend a holistic approach which takes into account the emotional state of the parents.”
At Tavistock Relationships we see hundreds of parents, individually, in a couple, or separated, facing problems with their relationship/co-parenting relationship. Our therapists work to get couples to communicate better in a manner that can help themselves and any children, preferably before conflict becomes entrenched. But all too often we encounter adults who are in a state of entrenched conflict whose pain and hurt, after a relationship breakdown, has resulted in them finding it almost impossible to parent their children collaboratively - a situation which they, naturally, never wanted or expected to find themselves in when they began their relationship.
So, we therefore welcome a new initiative - the Parents Promise - which we are supporting and which aims to change the conversation about parental separation, both within families and in wider society. It’s based on a simple and important concept that, safeguarding concerns notwithstanding, every child has a right to a positive relationship with both parents and that no child should be asked or forced to choose between their parents.
The Parents Promise undertook research that found that the conversation about dealing with conflict and separation rarely happens between couples. That may not be surprising, as the topic is a difficult one. It is, however, revealing that the research found that 87% of people had planned with their partner about how to spend a lottery win but only 5% had discussed how to co-parent if they separated. The sad reality is that latter is a far more likely scenario.
Initiatives such as the #ParentsPromise are about making a positive commitment to children. Coming to counselling is also about making a step to work out your problems, and we hope that it is becoming clear that doing this early opens up the possibility of lessening the impact on children in the event of a relationship breaking down. You can visit https://theparentspromise.org.uk/ and start a conversation today. If you would like to read about the kind of steps couples can make to plan for rockier times, you will find practical advice, examples and stories on the website, including the steps you can take to make a proactive promise to each other that could make a big difference in the unfortunate event that your relationship falters.
If you feel things are difficult already, then our counselling and psychotherapy has a proven record of improving relationship quality, so get in touch today.