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support

Separated Reflections

Posted on 29th October 2016 in children/ custody/ debt/ debts/ depression/ divorce/ ex-husband/ family/ money/ only dads/ onlydads

OnlyDadsI’ve been asked to reflect upon the experience of separation, how I handled it and if – upon reflection – I would have done things differently. The whole concept here is along a theme of ‘putting the children first’.

The questions are:

1. What did you do well?

2. What didn’t you do quite so well?

3. If you were to give one piece of advice to a parent going through separation what would it be?

4. How have the decisions you made then affected the life you are living today?

I’ve pondered this for a while. It isn’t an easy thing to look back on, and I wanted to be sure that my answers were honest and that I would only go ahead with the post if I felt it could be useful to someone else.

Here’s the thing, when I found myself in this position (out of the blue), I would have been desperate to read this kind of thing, there was literally nothing around at that point to tell me what to do, how to feel, what to think. And although, obviously no one can do any of those things for you, sometimes when you can feel the floor falling away from under you, you just need something, some shred of evidence that someone else has been through this and that they got through it ok.

So, my answers are:

1. What did you do well? Not much I don’t think. I wasn’t in control of my thoughts and so I floundered for a long while, taking advice from people who were ill-equipped to help. I did my level best to put the children first, in terms of caring for them, loving them, trying to retain some normality (some context: the house was being repossessed, my partner of 10 years had run off with someone he’d known for 2 weeks, I uncovered huge amounts of debt, my parter decided he needed to put his new relationship first, i.e. before the children). So retaining normality was hard, I was an emotional wreck with very little (almost zero) support but I tried to keep up with bedtime stories, walks, collecting leaves, play dates (while I sobbed in a supportive friend’s kitchen), and, I tried to facilitate my ex seeing the children. He would make plans, then cancel at the last minute, but I would still allow for new plans the following week and explain to my confused babies as best I could.

Actually, a better answer to question 1 would be:

It isn’t about you. It isn’t about your bruised emotions, your confusion, your pride or your finances, it is about the children. The innocents who need to be protected from as much of the impact as possible.

2. What didn’t you do quite so well? This little question is deceptively hard. I think I’ve touched upon a few things above so I am going to say that I should have sought better legal advice. I had a trainee solicitor who essentially told me I was screwed. She was no help to me emotionally or practically and as such I lost my home, my children lost their home and many possessions and I ended up responsible for a huge amount of debt. I don’t think I’ve heard of many other people who were dealt such a poor hand in this situation.

3. If you were to give one piece of advice to a parent going through separation what would it be? Time is a healer. Have faith that your personal wounds will heal and that the best thing you can do is invest time (not money/gifts etc) but time with your children. Make them feel loved and secured. If your ex is willing to have regular contact with the children, let them! Do not get caught up with petty arguments, point scoring and playing the blame game, let them feel loved by the two people who should love them.

4. How have the decisions you made then affected the life you are living today? I have a great life now but that is no reflection upon things at that time. If I go back say 6 months after he left, it is a very different picture. Then I was homeless, in debt, with very little support, even from the ‘system’. I was offered a, frankly, terrifying B&B (one room for all 3 of us, sharing a bathroom with strangers, you cannot be in the B&B during the day), which was in a completely different town to our old home, the children’s school and friends. At this point I literally couldn’t afford tea bags and toilet roll.

Now, the children don’t hear from him, he hasn’t seen them for at least 6 years (and the last time was for an hour even though he was meant to have been having them overnight). I still find that I beat myself up about the fact they don’t have a relationship with him – which is the main reason it has taken me so long to respond to the request to answer these darn questions!). I have to remind myself that it isn’t my fault he doesn’t see them, I have to remind myself that no matter how reasonably one person acts, no matter how easy they make it for another person to do the right thing, it doesn’t mean that they will. I am not responsible for his lack of responsibility.

One final piece of advice. When I was going through a particularly testing time, I decided that I needed some independent advice. Initially I went online thinking I was looking for a mums support group, or Homestart or Gingerbread, but I soon came to the conclusion that I needed to hear from a MAN. Someone who would be guaranteed not to be biased to my viewpoint, and that (along with being the reason why I am answering these questions) is how I ended up contacting OnlyDads and subsequently received some reasoned, grounded and sensible support from a man called Bob.

 

Where Is The Help? #WMHD2015 #MentalHealth

Posted on 10th October 2015 in child/ child abuse/ childline/ children/ depression/ family/ swearing

Screen Shot 2015-10-10 at 14.08.55It’s impressive to see so much focus on mental health today as part of #WMHD2015, how we can help others and how we can help ourselves.

I have seen several posts online from famous people in support of this day and the message behind it, which is an important step towards ending the stigma and shame that so often goes hand in hand with the words ‘depression’ and ‘mental health issue’.

But where do you go for help if you currently feel like even getting up out of bed or out of a chair is like wading through porridge. How do you ‘go out and make new friends’ if you don’t find anything likeable about yourself and therefore can’t imagine for one second why anyone else would enjoy your company. How do you put yourself out there if the previous end result was that you stood in a room wrapped in a cocoon of fog while everyone around you was vibrant and engaged and fully embracing that elusive casual happiness that seems as unattainable as a lottery jackpot?

This post is focussing on children and teens as if we don’t start reaching out to change their attitudes and improve their self-confidence and self-worth then this situation is only going to keep on growing and self-perpetuating.

So for children and teens in the UK, where can they go for help? If the generation above them is full of people with no tolerance and no understanding then they will be met with a wall of ‘don’t be so pathetic’ and ‘oh for god’s sake, just get on with it’ not forgetting ‘man up’.

I personally think there needs to be a new programme throughout schools put in place to deliver grass roots help and support to children and teens, building their confidence and self-esteem in such a way that the earliest niggles of self-doubt may well never develop into anything further.

I’ve seen that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are championing #WMHD2015 and I hope that with their backing and support there might finally become a time for our children and our children’s children when mental health can reach a parity with physical health. A time when children will grow up with a sensitivity to others so that they are an inbuilt peer support system for each other.

You don't have to hit to hurt

However angry you are with a child, shouting and using abusive language is never the answer.

I have found it fascinating on #EducatingCardiff to see how the teens change their behaviour once the adults change theirs; the commitment and patience shown by several of the staff at Willows High is a joy to observe and surely should serve as an example to others in the profession. This ties in with the quote ‘You don’t have to hit to hurt.’

It can’t be coincidence that shouting, punishing and belittling students makes their attitude and behaviour deteriorate (along with their self belief and sense of safety and wellbeing), whereas praise, encouragement, trust, friendship and support makes them flourish and re-engage with their work, friends and the world around them.

If children were built up and nurtured at home and at school then they would stand more chance of growing up to be strong, confident, caring adults who would in turn build up and nurture their own friends, family and children; there is a great quote by Frederick Douglass ‘It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.’

So what is there in terms of support for this age group? The local mental health services are all suffering cut backs and only the more severe cases are getting through to access care. (Needless to reiterate if children were loved and nurtured appropriately in the first place this would vastly cut the numbers who would need to be referred.)

For adults there are many services available, like Blurt.org

For children and teens there is of course Childline, our local YMCA runs a free counselling service for this age group and there are several Facebook support groups out there but it is important to check that it is a supportive one as there are also several very scary pro suicide groups too.

There is also Big White Wall which offers an interesting take on support and is well worth looking into, I believe they have an app too. Speaking of apps, here is a list of apps that may help with wellbeing.

With support it is a case of finding what works for you. Joining a club or an evening class may be the solution for some people, but having secret online peer support is what works for others. Don’t give up if the first thing you try doesn’t work.

If anyone can suggest other support options in the comments that would be really helpful.

With love – and remember – you are worth it, you are a good person and you are doing fine x

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