Ask the Counsellors: Recently Separated & Worried About the Kids
Dear Aspire Too,
My husband and I have recently decided to separate. I think it was a mutual decision overall, however it was me who initiated the final conversation leading to the separation. Since our conversation, he has moved out and I have remained in the home with our three children, ages ten, seven, and five. My husband and I get along pretty good and he sees the kids whenever he wants. We have not yet started the formalities that comes with separation and divorce such as division of property, support and custody. I am worried that things in the future will not be as friendly as they are now.
I have friends and family who have separated and, through this, I have seen conflict that has a negative impact on children, and I’m worried about this. I have been reading books on separation and divorce so I know that when things turn bad in a divorce, children are more susceptible to poor social skills, anger issues, anxiety, poor relationships, and can even turn to drug or alcohol use.
I believe that neither I nor my husband want to affect our children negatively. What can we do to help ensure a better outcome for our children? What options are there? Please help us. I just want to do what’s best for our kids.
Recently Separated and Worried.
Dear Recently Separated and Worried,
Separation and divorce are not easy for anyone involved. Even the most amicable separations inevitably experience some conflict. This is normal due to emotions that can run high or pop up without warning. Feelings of grief, hurt, betrayal, anger, annoyance, among others, can occur throughout the years following the separation due to loss of the relationship, infidelity, new partners, or differences in parenting styles, etc.
If parents manage well through separation and divorce, children will be better equipped to manage all of the emotions that come with separation. Whether you were married, common-law, or otherwise, couples will be tied together through their children; research indicates that the best outcomes for children occur when parents are able to work together amicably.
Often courts will direct families to seek counselling, which is helpful when families need assistance in navigating their thoughts, feelings and perceptions related to the separation.
At Aspire Too we provide many options that are tailored to each individual family and situation.
Aspire Too has a number of opportunities to assist families, such as:
- The New Way For Families (NWFF) program offers a no blame no shame approach. NWFF is an educational program that teaches parents how to be more flexible in their thinking, to manage their emotions, to moderate their behaviours, and to increase mindfulness. Parents enrolled in the NWFF program learn skills that assist them in managing typical conflict scenarios that arise during post-separation; for example, parents will be skillful in responding to hostile or emotional emails as well as become more adept in constructing positive proposals that reflect the best interests of the children. Once parents learn and demonstrate these skills, the parents, under the supervision of a trained professional, teach their child(ren) similar skills while highlighting a new way in which decisions will be made within the new structure of the separated family. The intended result leads to clarity for both parents and children on how shared parenting decisions will be made, how communication will occur between parents and children, and how each parent will support the other in their relationship with the children. With the learning that comes through NWFF, parents work through issues and decisions themselves, or with the help of a mediator, putting the needs of the children first while keeping them out of the middle of parental disputes. This program can also be appropriate for couples without children to assist in working through separation and divorce agreements.
- Mediation services are available for situations where the couple is not able to work through specific issues on their own and need assistance coming to an agreement with the help of a neutral third party.
- Active Parenting education and coaching is another option available that instills responsibility, cooperation, and courage through logical consequences and active listening. Parents and their children will learn a democratic way to conduct family meetings to resolve concerns that arise.
- Interdisciplinary Collaborative processes are also on the rise in Saskatchewan and are available to separating or divorcing couples. This process involves lawyers, a family coach, and a financial advisor trained in the Collaborative Approach for separation and divorce.
- At times there may be concern of Parental Alienation; parental alienation may exist when a child refuses contact with one parent, for instance. Program opportunities for alienated parents are dependent on several factors, including: whether the alienation is realistic, if the alienation was intentional, if the favoured parent is cooperative, and the severity of the alienation. Once these factors are evaluated, programming may or may not be offered via the NWFF. Consultation services and programs are available for families who are concerned about parental alienation but do not qualify for NWFF programming.
Acquiring new tools and learning new techniques and strategies before things escalate is a great way to prevent or minimize any harm to children experiencing separation or divorce. That being said, it is never too late to access the various supports and programs available to couples and families when going through divorce or separation conflict.
If you would like a consultation to see if your family would qualify for the services available do not hesitate to access us through our website at www.aspiretoo.ca or contact our office directly at (306) 382-2391.
Leanne Leedahl, BSW, RSW, CLC
Director of High Conflict Counselling Services