Why parental conflict resolution is so vital to children’s welfare
Guest post written by Ian Soars, CEO of website DAD.info and children’s charity Fegans
Over 1,000 divorced or separated parents took part in our recently published survey on co-parenting after divorce or separation. The survey found that during the process of separation, dads go much longer periods without seeing their children than mums. The main reason for this was not delays in court process (as might have been expected) but to avoid further conflict with their ex-partners. The stats are quite startling, but they do accurately reflect the experiences hundreds of parents share with us every day on the DAD.info forum.
38% of mums say their children do not spend time with their dads following separation or divorce.
One in five dads (19%) who lost contact did not see their children for over six months.
A third of parents surveyed used the family courts to make childcare arrangements during their separation.
Our charity, Fegans, which owns and runs DAD.info, provides professional one-to-one counselling for over 400 children each week.The single most common reason for children to be referred to us is because of family relationship difficulties and the effects of family breakdown. We see first-hand that unresolved parental conflict is harmful to children. As a society we must do more to promote positive co-parenting – which puts the children first – as the norm post separation. More needs to be done to help separating parents resolve conflicts outside of the courts by accessing support services such as family mediation.
Thankfully in our survey there were a significant proportion of parents who did seek conflict resolution support (almost a third of dads for example said they had engaged in family mediation). And hundreds of non-resident parents who did spend time with their children, reported amicable relationships with their ex-partners, even if that did take some time and courage to achieve.
“We are still on friendly terms following initial animosity. We take joint decisions regarding the children and are mutually supportive emotionally,” said one parent, while another explained: “We have reached a point of calm and clarity that only time could heal. It takes time for everybody to adjust to the shifts and new territory that comes with a separation.”
Those who had found their way towards long-term successful co-parenting, commonly reported that keeping lines of communication open and showing respect for the other parent (particularly in front of the children) played a key role.
A key finding of a recent report from the Family Solutions Group (calling for reform in how parents in the UK separate), was that it is it not the fact of parental separation that affects children’s long term welfare, so much as the way it is handled – and the way in which the children experience the relationship between their parents.
So many respondents in the survey echoed this, offering advice to other parents about to go on the same journey. These quotes are good examples:
“Try very hard to keep your relationship amicable – the children notice this and it makes it less stressful for them if they see the parents still getting along.”
Put the kids first. Don’t use them as weapons to hurt the other parent and don't try to brainwash them against the other parent and don't allow your extended family to do this either.”
Fegans has built a wealth of resources for parents using evidence-based outcomes, to give them the motivation, tools, and confidence to co-parent effectively. Earlier this year we launched an online course about co-parenting after separation which can be accessed free of charge via DAD.info. The course, developed with guidance from professional family mediators, includes on-demand lessons through animations and videos from parenting coaches and downloadable support materials.
Meanwhile the DAD.info forum – with over 38,000 users – is always available for parents seeking free online peer support. It is moderated by a team of parents with lived experience of separation and divorce. It is a great source of advice for the many issues encountered by separating parents, and conflict resolution is a common thread. Please do pop over to seek the support you need to ensure your children thrive. Dads – and mums too – are all welcome.
OnePlusOne has a number of evidence-based online resources designed to help all parents – whether they are together or separated – to understand the impact their arguments can have on their children and learn better ways to deal with conflict in their relationship. You can view the support available on the resources section of our website.