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Health and relationships
The quality of your relationship with your partner (and with friends, colleagues and family members) affects both your mental and physical wellbeing. Similarly, how good you feel emotionally and physically can affect how you get on with your partner - perhaps even more than you realise. |[profileDataBundle id=1]| Improving your relationship quality can have a positive effect on your health, affecting related behaviours like exercising and drinking that can, in turn, affect how you get on. Of course, relationships go through ups and downs. But when we are unhappy or frustrated it’s easy to ignore what we know is good for us. Risky behaviours can provide an escape but sometimes we can fall into habits that are bad for both our health and our relationship. The good news is that, by taking stock and taking a good look at our patterns of behaviour, we can start making a few changes and things can start feeling very different. Have a look at the following questions and then share your answers with your partner. This can help you to assess the bigger picture and start changing some of the behaviours that could be affecting your relationship. Overall, how well do you feel on a day-to-day basis? Where would you score your physical health on a scale of one to 10, with ten being best it can be? Do you smoke? If so, how much, and at what times of day? What are your triggers for smoking? How often do you drink? Do you drink to unwind, to be social, or to shut things out? How well do you eat? Do you and your partner eat together – are cooking and eating well important parts of your relationship? Are you over or underweight? How do you feel about your body? How well do you sleep? –What, if anything keeps you awake? Can you see any patterns? Do you exercise regularly? How do you feel after exercising? How often do you have sex? Do you enjoy sex with your partner? Are you currently working? How does your work affect how you feel? If you have a bad day at work, what impact does it have on your home life? How do you know you are overstressed? What are the signs? What makes you feel good physically? What makes you feel good emotionally?   What next? Have a look at your answers. How does the overall picture look? Does it look good or feel a bit overwhelming? Are there any patterns you’d like to change? If you have any habits or recurring behaviours that aren’t serving you, look at the underlying reasons. Take it slowly – recognising the need for change is a crucial first step. Don’t try to change everything at once. If you are a smoker, that’s a good place to start. Consider cutting down, or just keeping a log of when you smoke and how you feel before and after. Start to notice what need you are trying to fulfil by smoking, and whether it’s working for you. If you want to eat better, start by introducing some small changes to your diet. Get a new cookbook or look up some recipes online. Experimenting with new dishes can be fun. Set aside some time to plan and cook a healthy meal with your partner – this one positive shared experience could be the first step towards getting out of a mealtime rut. Poor sleep, drinking too much and work stress are all issues that can contribute to how you get on with your partner, often leading to arguments. It can feel overwhelming to address these issues at once – a good place to start might be taking some regular exercise. It doesn’t matter what, so long as it is something you can enjoy that fits in with your work and family demands. Exercise can also have a positive impact on other areas of your life, releasing natural chemicals that improve your mood and make you feel happier. Adopting a more active lifestyle can improve your mental health, giving you a positive reminder you that the choices you make affect how you feel. Leading a more active life can give you a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life, and help you sleep better. It can improve your self-esteem and confidence, helping you feel more valued, and more attractive. Exercise and physical activity can give you something positive to strive for and commit to. It can help you to stop dwelling on problems and, in time, you may even start to enjoy it!   A word of warning! If this exercise has brought up any issues you find difficult to talk about, you may find it helpful to use some of the communication exercises and articles elsewhere on the site. If you have identified that you or your partner are drinking too much, you may need to seek professional help – looking at the articles on addiction on the site can be a positive first step.
Article | Health
5 min read
Co-parenting a disabled child
All relationships go through periods of change and challenge. Some parents find these experiences bring them closer together, while others are overwhelmed by the experience and struggle to stay together. If things have broken down and you have decided to separate, we have some hints and tips to help you carry on caring for your child, whether you live with them or not.No longer living under the same roof as your children will inevitably affect the level of contact you have with them and it will usually be necessary to agree contact arrangements with your former partner. Legally, a person with parental responsibility cannot be denied contact with their child without the intervention of the courts. Of course, it will usually be best if both parents can discuss and agree appropriate arrangements informally. You’ll need to work together with your ex to ensure you can provide the full support your child needs from both parents. Parental involvement is one of the most important factors in how disabled children integrate into school and social life [4] and non-resident parents play an important role in this [5]. As separated parents, working together makes you more effective at providing a responsive parenting role, and more likely to have a better relationship with your child [6].This kind of collaboration between separated parents is known as co-parenting. Communicating with your ex For some parents, having to maintain contact with one another and sort out arrangements for the children can be a huge strain. If you’re still upset with your ex-partner, you may be finding it difficult to communicate with them. However, it’s important to try and set your disagreements aside long enough to get your living arrangements in order and make a collaborative parenting plan that means your child has a stable environment or environments where they can get the best possible support from both of you [3]. Here are some tips to help you communicate with your ex and protect your children from any fallout from the separation:   avoid blaming yourself or your partner agree not to let your own relationship issues get into the discussion create some rules together about how best to manage meetings continue at another time if you feel discussions sliding into tricky waters don’t communicate with your partner through your child focus on child-related issues; it can help keep your dialogue clear and to the point work on a parenting plan together don’t argue with your partner about the children in front of them. This will only increase their sense of guilt and blame about the break up. Supporting your children Helping your child through a period of separation or divorce is challenging as you come to terms with your own feelings. But there are things you can do that can help. Keeping children informed about what is happening will help to prevent them blaming themselves and worrying unnecessarily. You can help children feel more secure by helping them to express their feelings, letting them know that you understand how they feel, and making sure they feel they can ask questions if they want to, will help. Children often feel a great sense of loss and letting them grieve is an important part of helping them to deal with the situation and to move on to accept the changes in their family relationships. They may also express anger towards you, whilst this can be hurtful, try not to take it too personally as it can be a sign they are finding it hard to cope. Denial is also a common response. A child will naturally have hopes and fantasies about the family, such as wanting you all to be reunited. Talking about these feelings, without raising false hopes, will help your child to move on. Avoid criticising your ex-partner in front of the children. It can be very upsetting for them and leave them feeling forced to take sides. Mothers and fathers Research has shown that mothers and fathers of disabled children can experience stress differently. Mothers’ stress tends to be focused around the daily caring tasks [7], while fathers are more likely to worry about their emotional attachment with the child [8]. If you are the parent with the main caring duties, you may need to ask for some extra support from friends and family to help you stay on top of daily care. If you are the non-resident parent, you may want to schedule in regular phone calls between visits to help stay in touch and maintain the connection with your child. Working together As a co-parent, you still have a parenting role to perform, even if you don’t live with your child. While you may not be in a couple relationship anymore, you and your child’s other parent will need to maintain a co-operative parenting relationship to give your child the maximum benefit of your care. If you are the resident parent, part of your role will be to share information with your child’s other parent and, assuming it is safe and meets any court requirements in place, ensure that they have access to your child. While it can be hard to let your ex-partner into your routines, it’s important to be open and welcoming for the sake of your child, particularly when there is important information to share about medical care and other additional needs [1]. Face-to-face visits are the best way to maintain good quality parent-child relationships but if you live a long way away from your child, frequent contact through emails, phone calls, or video calls can help make up for some of this distance [9]. Staying in touch with your ex can also help you plan for unexpected events, like your child leaving something they need at the other parent’s home. You don’t necessarily have to spend intensive time together, as long as you both commit to the agreed arrangements and stay in touch about important decisions. If you are struggling to maintain a good relationship with your child’s other parent, you can use the free parenting plan at Splitting Up? Put Kids First to keep on top of parenting arrangements without having to interact directly. References [1] Newacheck, P. W., Inkelas, M., & Kim, S. E. (2004). Health services use and health care expenditures for children with disabilities. Pediatrics, 114(1), 79-85. [2] Roberts, K., & Lawton, D. (2001). Acknowledging the extra care parents give their disabled children. Child: care, health and development, 27(4), 307-319. [3] Shandra, C. L., Hogan, D. P., & Spearin, C. E. (2008). Parenting a child with a disability: An examination of resident and non-resident fathers. Journal of Population Research, 25(3), 357-377. [4] Pascall, G., & Hendey, N. (2004). Disability and transition to adulthood: the politics of parenting. Critical Social Policy, 24(2), 165-186. [5] Amato, P. R., & Gilbreth, J. G. (1999). Nonresident fathers and children's well-being: A meta-analysis. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 557-573. [6] Sobolewski, J. M., & King, V. (2005). The importance of the coparental relationship for nonresident fathers’ ties to children. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67(5), 1196-1212. [7] Pelchat, D., Lefebvre, H., & Perreault, M. (2003). Differences and similarities between mothers’ and fathers’ experiences of parenting a child with a disability. Journal of child health care, 7(4), 231-247. [8] Cohen, M. S. (1999). Families coping with childhood chronic illness: A research review. Families, Systems, & Health, 17(2), 149. [9] McGene, J., & King, V. (2012). Implications of new marriages and children for coparenting in nonresident father families. Journal of family issues, 33(12), 1619-1641.
Article | co-parenting, parenting apart
5 min read
Planning a step family
Becoming a step parent can be one of the most challenging and rewarding things a person can do. And when you join a family where one or more of the children is disabled, you may soon find that good planning is one of the key ingredients to making your new family’s life a success. Different sets of values, attitudes and feelings can lead to stress for children and conflict for adults – but these risks can be reduced with proper planning [1].   Because routines can be so important for disabled children, in the beginning, it’s best to try and settle gradually into the existing way of life of your new family, watching and learning how things are done, and offering help where needed. Your partner and their other children (if they have them) will have spent years looking after the disabled child, working out what works best, so may not appreciate you coming in trying to change things, no matter how well meaning you are. Where possible, try to make sure the children are involved in any decisions you make with your partner. Children who feel they have a say in the transition are more likely to accept a new step-parent, rather than seeing them as a threat to their own parent’s attention [2]. It’s good to talk Your role in the first instance should be to learn the ropes, but it’s important to talk openly with your partner about what your involvement will be. Parents who form new relationships tend to be more likely to avoid talking about relationship and family issues than couples entering their first marriage [3], possibly due to past experiences of marriage and parenting [4]. However, while it can be scary to tackle difficult issues, open communication can minimise the risk of conflict, and better prepare you for the unique challenges that your new life as a step-parent is going to bring [1]. Sit down with your partner and talk clearly about any questions you have about your stepchild’s care. In the long run, clear communication will help you get through tough times. Follow your partner’s lead It’s likely that your partner will have a good understanding of their child’s needs, alongside a number of care routines. Even if you have wildly different opinions about how things should be done, it’s best to try and fit into existing routines, at least in the beginning. You may end up providing a lot of care for your new stepchild and, as you get to know each other better, it may become natural to suggest little changes. In the beginning, however, it’s going to be a lot simpler to follow your partner’s lead until you have a strong sense of why things are done the way they are. Planning and prep  When forming a new stepfamily, it’s very important to take things slowly, plan things properly, and keep lines of communication open. Keeping everything out in the open can help prevent arguments later down the line. Talk about how you are going to handle certain situations, and identify any issues that you might encounter so you can be ready to deal with things together. This can help the whole family to adjust slowly and handle the changes more confidently [5]. Be patient Your partner may want to introduce you to the family gradually, and this can help ease the transition for you. Children cope better when they have a chance to get to know their new step-parent slowly [5]. You may find that taking on the caring duties of a disabled child is more stressful and tiring than you’d first thought, and there may be times when you wonder if you’ve taken on more than you can handle. It’s important to be patient with yourself and your step child, and to remember to take some time for yourself to rest and relax, and to be a partner and a lover as well as a step-parent. The better rested you are, the better equipped you’ll be to support your stepchild, so try to take some time for yourself to pursue your own interests, spend time with your partner, your friends, and your other children if you have them. While it may feel like a luxury to look after yourself, you’ll be better able to look after your family when you’re taking good care of yourself. It’s sometimes possible to get outside help to allow you to take respite breaks. Your partner may have information on this already or, if not, you can find information through your child’s social workers or medical care providers.  Being a step-parent is not always going to be easy. Many step-parents talk about having to do a balancing act, where they fulfill the role of a parenting figure, without stepping too far into the domain of the natural parent. Step-parents who try to exert authority before the children have accepted them can often come up against resistance, so you may have to defer certain issues to the children’s primary carer, at least in the beginning [6] [7]. In time, though, you’ll find your patience pays off, as you settle into your new role as a partner, caregiver, and step-parent. For information on how to get a short break please see Contact's information on short breaks.  All family members, including step parents, are welcome to contact the freephone helpline to talk about any questions you may have about caring for your disabled step child, including education, finances, and information about your child’s condition. They also have information for siblings, grandparents, fathers and looking after your relationship. You can call them on 0808 808 3555, or email helpline@contact.org.uk References    [1] Pace, G. T., Shafer, K., Jensen, T. M., & Larson, J. H. (2015). Stepparenting issues and relationship quality: The role of clear communication. Journal of Social Work, 15(1), 24-44. [2] Visher, E. B., Visher, J. S., & Pasley, K. (2003). Remarriage families and stepparenting. Normal family processes: growing diversity and complexity, 3, 153-175. [3] Afifi, T. D., & Schrodt, P. (2003). Uncertainty and the Avoidance of the State of One's Family in Stepfamilies, Postdivorce Single‐Parent Families, and First‐Marriage Families. Human Communication Research, 29(4), 516-532. [4] Sweeper, S., & Halford, K. (2006). Assessing adult adjustment to relationship separation: The Psychological Adjustment to Separation Test (PAST). Journal of Family Psychology, 20(4), 632. [5] Cartwright, C. (2010). Preparing to repartner and live in a stepfamily: An exploratory investigation. Journal of Family Studies, 16(3), 237-250. [6] Hetherington, E. M., & Kelly, J. (2002). Divorce reconsidered: For better or worse. [7] Kinniburgh-White, R., Cartwright, C., & Seymour, F. (2010). Young adults’ narratives of relational development with stepfathers. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 27(7), 890-907.
Article | stepfamily, parenting, disability
4 min read
Children in hospital
When your child has a disability or long-term illness, hospital stays might be a familiar part of your life. But hospitals can be stressful places, and managing a stay can be tough for you as parents [1], both practically and emotionally.  You may worry about leaving your child in the care of hospital staff, particularly if your child has communication difficulties and important decisions are being made [2]. Younger people with learning disabilities can often find it difficult being understood in hospital settings [3]. Dealing with hospital staff If you’re having difficulty accessing the support and services your child needs, it can have a significant impact on you and your partner [4]. It can sometimes feel like hospital staff don’t know how to offer the care your child needs [5] and you may find yourself going over the same things as you are passed from one practitioner to the next. One way to ensure your child’s needs are properly considered is by using a hospital or communication passport for your child. A hospital passport is a booklet that you can use to pass on crucial information about a child or young person with additional needs. It contains information about their condition, medications, likes and dislikes, and essential information if an emergency happens. This can ensure that all the professionals who come into contact with you and your child have the same information without you having to keep explaining things. This can be particularly useful for children with a learning difficulty.  The charity Scope have a template for a communication passport on their website. Look under ‘Free hospital communication resource’ at www.scope.org.uk/support/tips/health/hospital-stays. Mencap also have a hospital passport for children with a learning disability on their website: www.mencap.org.uk/advice-and-support/health/our-health-guides. Even the most well equipped hospitals cannot provide the round-the-clock care that many severely disabled children need, so children might be completely dependent on others to stay comfortable and happy in hospital. As their mum or dad, you may need to be by their side for much of the day to pick up the extra care that nursing and clinical staff can’t offer. This can include practical things, but also just talking to them, and keeping them reassured and entertained. You may need to ask hospital staff to have patience with you. Having a child in hospital can be draining for parents [4] and you may not be at your best when trying to communicate important things to the staff. When you feel that hospital staff aren’t very understanding about your experiences, it can leave you feeling unsupported, and worried about the decisions that are being made while you’re not there [5]. At times like these, you and your partner might need to make a special effort to support each other. It can be helpful to spend five or ten minutes at the end of the day, talking about what you’ve found difficult and what has gone well. This can help give you a better understanding of each other’s experiences, while getting emotional support from the person who is going through this with you. It can also give you a chance to gather your thoughts and reflect on the day. Support while your child is in hospital Having a child in hospital can sometimes open the door to services and support you may not have accessed before. Make sure you enquire about specialist support. Some charities work in hospitals providing condition-specific nurses, such as Roald Dahl nurses who can visit and support you, and provide follow up care when you’ve left the hospital setting. There are also charities who take applications for financial support, like grants to families with a child in hospital. See www.contact.org.uk/general-grants for a list of grant-giving charities, or contact the helpline for a copy on 0808 808 3555 or helpline@contact.org.uk. The hospital’s Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) can offer parents confidential advice, support and information. They can help you with health-related questions and help resolve concerns or problems when you're using the NHS. You can usually find their office in or near the main entrance of the hospital. Contact has parent advisers based at six children's hospitals across the UK, providing families with emotional and practical support. Parents can drop by the information stands or ask someone to come to the ward. Contact currently work at: Birmingham Children's Hospital. Royal Manchester Children's Hospital. Alder Hey Children's Hospital. Great North Children's Hospital. The Evelina Children's Hospital. Great Ormond Street Hospital. The Contact website has details of available days and times. Leaning on friends and family If you are stressed, it can have an impact your child’s health and behaviour [1], so it’s important to make sure that you and your partner are well supported. One of the best ways to cope with stress is to lean on your friends and family [1] [6]. Sometimes talking to someone outside of the situation can help you let off steam in a way that talking to your partner can’t. You may also be able to ask for practical help, like lifts to or from the hospital, picking up other children from school, or helping you out with the housework for a while. It can be hard to ask for help, but try to be kind to yourself and remember that lots of people enjoy feeling needed and will be happy to support you when they know what you’re going through. Staying with your child If your child is having a long stay in hospital, you can help them by keeping things as normal as possible, like making sure they have access to schoolwork and home comforts [1]. If your other life commitments allow it, you may be able to stay in or near the hospital with your child. Most hospitals allow or even encourage this and some have funded schemes to offer low-cost accommodation nearby [7]. There are also centres like Ronald McDonald House which have been set up specifically to allow your family to stay together while your child is in hospital.  Staying close to your child can take some of the worry out of the situation [7] and help you feel more confident about the care your child is receiving [2]. It may also put you in touch with other parents who are in similar situations [7]. Looking after your relationship However you decide to manage things, you and your partner will probably have to make some compromises. Set aside some time to work things through as a couple – make a list of what needs doing and work out where it’s possible to free up time and resources to make things work. You may be able to divide things up equally, or one of you may have to do the majority of the heavy lifting while the other keeps working. Agree a strategy that works for both of you and make a plan to review it and check if it’s working. Talking things through can help you see how each other is involved, and give you both a greater sense of fairness. Coming home Before your child comes home, make sure you contact the hospital social work department to arrange your child’s care needs when they are discharged. The hospital should liaise with your local authority to make sure you and your child have everything in place. If your child’s care needs have changed, be prepared to start a new routine rather than trying to recapture the old one.  No one can pretend that having a child in hospital is anything but a stressful experience, and it’s normal for feelings of stress and worry to continue even after your child is discharged [8], so give yourselves a chance to adjust afterwards.  References [1] Commodari, E. (2010). Children staying in hospital: a research on psychological stress of caregivers. Italian Journal of Pediatrics, 36, 40. http://www.ijponline.net/content/36/1/40  [2] Gumm R, Thomas E, Lloyd C, et al. (2017) Improving communication between staff and disabled children in hospital wards: testing the feasibility of a training intervention developed through intervention mapping. BMJ Paediatrics Open 2017;1:e000103. doi:10.1136/bmjpo-2017-000103 [3] Care Quality Commission (2017) NHS Patient Survey Programme.Children and young people’s inpatient and day case survey 2016: Statistical release. http://www.cqc.org.uk/sites/default/files/20171128_cyp16_statisticalrelease.pdf [4] Care Quality Commission (2012) Health care for disabled children and young people. A review of how the health care needs of disabled children and young people are met by the commissioners and providers of health care in England. https://www.cqc.org.uk/sites/default/files/documents/health_care_for_disabled_children.pdf [5] Hagvall, M., Ehnfors, M. and Anderzn-Carlsson, A. (2016) Experiences of parenting a child with medical complexity in need of acute hospital care. Journal of Child Health Care, 20(1), pp.68-76. DOI: 10.1177/1367493514551308 [6] Kersh, J., Hedvat, T.T., Hauser-Cram, P. and Warfield, M. E. (2006), The contribution of marital quality to the well-being of parents of children with developmental disabilities. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 50: 883–893. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2788.2006.00906.x [7] Franck, L.S., Ferguson, D., Fryda, S., & Rudin, N. (2015). The child and family hospital experience: Is it influenced by family accommodation? Medical Care Research and Review, 72(4), 419-437. [8] Wray, J., Lee, K., Dearmun, N. and Franck, L. (2011) Parental anxiety and stress during children’s hospitalisation: The StayClose study. Journal of Child Health Care, 15(3), pp.163-174. DOI: 10.1177/1367493511408632
Article | parenting, disability
8 min read
Agreeing on medical treatment
What is happening? For many separated parents, as their relationship with their partner comes to an end, their parental partnership continues forward. Even if there’s no love (or at least, no romantic love) left between one another as parents, the shared love for your child remains and grows. But of course, such parental partnerships are rarely easy or straightforward, and for many parents of disabled children, extra stresses and complexities are likely to pop up. These can cause friction and disagreements.These disagreements will vary parent to parent, often depending on the condition of the child. But, according to research, the two main points of disagreement for separated parents of disabled children are [1]: The medical treatment their child’s needs The educational approach for their learning needs “If parents disagree on treatment or educational approaches for their special needs child, separation and/or divorce usually magnify these differences.”[1]                                                                                  In other words, if you struggled to agree on these subjects when you were a couple, there's a good chance it will be harder to agree when you're separated.  How can I help? If your child’s medical treatment is being discussed with a doctor, a specialist, or healthcare member, make sure that you encourage one another to attend appointments together wherever possible. It can be helpful to carry the mind-set that your partnership needs work and effort in the same way that your relationship once did. So, if it feels uncomfortable to attend medical and healthcare meetings together, it may be worth pushing through the awkwardness and the tension for the sake of improving the partnership. Consider using an online parenting plan with your ex-partner, and choose one that allows you to customise it for specific issues. Parenting plans like “Splitting Up? Put Kids First” will allow you to choose your own category, e.g. “Medical treatment for our child”, where you can write down your suggestions and proposals. Your partner would then respond and either agree or disagree with what you’ve put forward. Eventually, you can reach joint decisions and make agreements while keeping emotions and friction to a minimum. Whether you’re talking face-to-face, via a parenting plan or through a series of texts, try to place a real emphasis on respecting one another and using clear communication. It’s going to be difficult to separate your emotions, but your child and your parental partnership with your ex will benefit from your efforts.     If you’re going through a separation or a divorce, you can help to minimise the negative effects that separation can cause on your child’s development and well-being by focussing on the partnership with your ex-partner and the shared love of your child. And, by being active and finding ways to work together as a partnership, your ex-partner may be more responsive and agreeable, knowing how much you want to make the parent partnership work. References: [1] Pickar, Daniel B., and Robert L. Kaufman. “Parenting Plans for Special Needs Children: Applying a Risk-Assessment Model.” Family Court Review 53, no. 1 (January 1, 2015): 113–33.
Article | disability, parenting
4 min read
Agreeing on parenting styles
If you follow the news, or if you’ve recently picked up one of the many celebrity magazines that thrives on Hollywood breakups, you’ll know about the divorce between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. According to the A lister couple, they made this decision because they couldn’t agree on their parenting styles. Whether or not this is the actual reason is another matter, but it raises an interesting question about the impact that parenting styles can have on couple relationships. Before we explore that, let’s just brush up on parenting styles. What are they? Well, broadly speaking, they’re just choices that you make as a parent for raising your child. And these choices can be wrapped up and categorised as a style. Here are the four most popular style categories [1]. See if you think any of them relate to your own parenting style. You may find that you don’t resonate with a single style, but perhaps fall somewhere inbetween.  1. Authoritarian parenting Authoritarian parenting is a style that is demanding and rigid. The parent puts strict rules in play and expects them to be followed, which echoes a kind of military approach. There’s little room for children to question why the rules are in place. “It is often effective in the short-term but children often rank lower in happiness, social confidence and self-esteem” [1].  2. Authoritative parenting This style is all about rules and guidelines with high levels of parental warmth mixed in. Parents still view themselves as authority figures, but are also responsive, caring and loving. It’s considered the most effective and beneficial style for children. “Authoritative parents are responsive to their children and willing to listen to their questions. They also concentrate more on nurturing than punishment. This style of parenting is generally thought to elicit the best outcomes for children and they are likely to be confident, more autonomous and more socially responsible” [1].  3. Permissive parenting Permissive parents tend to let their children have control most of the time, with little use of routine or boundaries. They don’t tend to view themselves as authority figures. Parents with this style are typically warm and loving and are extremely responsive to their child’s needs. “They tend to be non-traditional and lenient, often taking the role of a friend rather than a parent. This type of parenting has been linked to childhood adjustment difficulties.”[2].  4. Positive parenting This parenting style is authoritative, but it’s about empowering children, fuelling their self-esteem and giving them positive vision for their own future. While there is no agreement as to what constitutes positive parenting [3], positive parenting has been described as “accepting, warm, involved, sensitive, responsive, caring, and empathetic; social-emotional and cognitive growth fostering; and directive” [4]. "So, if me and my partner have different styles, is that a bad thing?"   Not necessarily. As long as you manage your differences by talking them through together and making your decisions together as a couple – your differing parenting styles don’t have to be a bad thing. Of course, this does rely on your communication being very good. If you’re struggling to talk about your relationship issues without falling out, then differing parenting styles could easily become another source of conflict. "So if we have the same parenting style, we’re good?"   Not exactly. You and your partner might share an “authoritative” style, but that doesn’t mean that all of your parenting decisions will align. There are still plenty of parental decisions that you might disagree on, and there are still lots of variations to an authoritative style. For example, you might believe that a child’s bed times needs to be routine-based, and your partner might believe that your child should go to bed when they feel ready to sleep. You both still see yourselves as authority figures, and you’re both adopting a loving approach, but you’re not in agreement here. All that being said, if you’re adopting the same style (in this case authoritative), then in general you will probably find it easier to make compromises and reach decisions together. "What about my child who’s disabled? Doesn’t that change the game for parenting styles?"   Often it does. Sometimes you can’t adopt the approach that you’d like to, perhaps because of different emotional reactions from your child, or because of the way that your child’s behaviour needs to be managed. This means that parents need to be even stronger with their communication, because with all these additional factors being thrown into the mix - it will be even more difficult to reach decisions together. This will require both of you to work hard, but the rewards of solid communication will justify the investment ten times over. This includes being reflective on what has worked and what hasn’t (tip: be critical of your own approach - it can change the dynamic of ‘my way versus your way’). "For disabled children, is one style proven more successful?"   Every disability is different and no two conditions are the same. But in the studies, the research revealed two interesting things.  1. Parents found that the authoritative style was less successful as the children got older. “This may be due to factors related to the children’s disability, the amount of repetition needed, the limited success that may be achieved, and other demands on parental time and energies" [6]. 2. Parents found that “there is an overall beneficial effect of positive parenting upon the functional outcomes of young children with developmental disabilities, regardless of disability type” [5]. In summary, positive parenting scores points across the board, and authoritative parenting scores points in the early days only. But of course, this isn’t by any means a ‘thus says the Lord”, but it’s a worthy discussion point to have with your partner. Talk with your partner about parenting styles, and make it a conscious thing in your relationship. Even by just thinking about one another’s parenting styles, you can get closer to making those decisions together that ultimately will shape your child’s world and your family dynamic.  References [1] Diana Baumrind (1991) [2] Benson, Buehler, & Gerard, (2008) [3] Russell and Russell, (1996) [4] Bornstein, (2003) [5] Dyches et al., (2012). [6] Woolfson and Grant, 2006
Article | parenting styles, disability
4 min read
Coping with disability in the early years
When your child has a disability, the stress of parenthood can be amplified. You may still be reeling from the shock of your child’s diagnosis, or from trying to get clarity on what their condition involves. The impact of parental stress on your relationship can be hardest to cope with in the early years [1].  The first few years of your child’s life are essential for the child’s development, and also for you as parents. Learning some coping skills early on can make you more resilient, setting up the way you’ll deal with stressful situations in the future, so it’s worth spending some time getting it right [2]. Learning how to cope Coping is a skill, and – like other skills – it can be learned and improved. Think of coping as the set of thoughts, feelings and behaviours that get you through difficult or stressful situations [3]. It’s much easier to change your thoughts than your emotions, so the first step towards learning to cope with difficult situations is to approach them with the right attitude. When you’re stressed, you might feel like running away and hiding, or you might just wish things were different. While this might help in the short term, you probably already know that it’s not an effective long-term solution. Take the time to talk things through with your partner and look for solutions. Try to take on an attitude of problem-solving as you face each issue – getting into the habit of doing this will help you cope and support each other better in future [4]. For example, if your child is prone to bouts of anger, you may feel tempted to try and placate your child, or avoid situations where an outburst would be particularly embarrassing. This can become extremely stressful for parents who have a child who has, or is developing, behaviour that challenges. It’s so important to seek help early. Discussing problems while they’re not actually happening can make it easier to stay calm when they do happen. With the example above, you might find it gets easier to keep your cool, and hold the space while your child’s anger runs its course, leaving a way through to understanding the cause of the outburst. When you have time, find out about any help you may be entitled to, and strategies you can use to deal with their behaviour. Have a look at Contact's information on behaviour, including their guide to Understanding your child’s behaviour. Then you and your partner can sit down and talk about how you are going to deal with the next outburst. You can also develop a long-term strategy to deal with behaviour issues. This particular issue may not reflect your experience, but it can help you see how you can start to approach your own difficult situations in a different way. Learning to cope with problems this way can help you build your resilience over time, protecting you against some of the stress associated with parenting a disabled child, and making you less prone to argue with your partner. You may have to take it turns being ‘the strong one’ – knowing that you’re looking out for each other will give you a better chance of keeping up this positive attitude as a couple [4]. As an added benefit, you may also find that you can pass these skills on, and teach your children how to cope with anxious feelings and stressful situations. When your children are also equipped to cope with the challenges they face, it can take pressure off the whole family. They will be able to have more independence, and you will feel more confident in their abilities [3]. Learning to be a parent For many of us, becoming a parent will be the first time we ever have to deal with very young children. Parenting is one of the hardest and most rewarding jobs we’ll ever do, and most of us learn ‘on the job’. Parents of disabled children have said that attending a parenting programme has been helpful in improving the quality of their parenting, and their understanding of parent-child relationships. There is also good evidence to show that participation in a parenting programme improves the mental health and wellbeing of the parents themselves as well as of their children [5]. Parenting programmes may be run by local authorities, charities, faith centres, or private individuals. If you feel it would be helpful, you can search for courses near you on the National Institute of Parenting website. Sharing the burden During the early years, it can also be useful to figure out how you’re going to cope with all the extra work that having a young child in the house creates for you and your partner. Much of the conflict between new parents comes from a feeling that household chores and parenting responsibilities aren’t being shared fairly [6].  Talk about how you are going to share these responsibilities. You won’t necessarily be able to divide things up equally, particularly if one of you is working full time and the other spends more time at home, but having the discussion can help you both feel that things are fairer. It can also help you prepare for the lifestyle changes as you learn to adjust to supporting your child’s needs. As time moves on, your child’s needs will change. Keep talking to your partner, and make sure you’re both still happy with the arrangements – if you need more help, ask for it, and if you’re worried about how well your partner is coping, check in to see if what else you can do. Early years education Finally, take some of the burden off by making use of your local service providers. Early years education can help your child learn valuable confidence-building and social skills like playing with other children, taking turns, and sharing [7], all of which supports their cognitive development and independence, and can help you feel more confident and less stressed. All early years education providers must take steps to include and support disabled children, and children who have, or may have, special educational needs. They are required to register with Ofsted if they offer free early years education places. For information about your options, including nurseries, playgroups or childminders, and how your child should be supported up to the age of five, see our information on help in the early years.   References [1] Durtschi, Jared A., Kristy L. Soloski, and Jonathan Kimmes. 2017. ‘The Dyadic Effects of Supportive Coparenting and Parental Stress on Relationship Quality Across the Transition to Parenthood’. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy; Hoboken 43 (2):308–21. [2] Douglas, Tracy, Bernice Redley, and Goetz Ottmann. 2016. ‘The First Year: The Support Needs of Parents Caring for a Child with an Intellectual Disability’. Journal of Advanced Nursing 72 (11):2738–49  [3] Frydenberg, E., Deans, J. and Liang, R. (2014) Families Can Do Coping: Parenting Skills in the Early Years Children Australia, Volume 39, Number 2, pp. 99–10. [4] Peer, Justin W., and Stephen B. Hillman. 2014. ‘Stress and Resilience for Parents of Children With Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities: A Review of Key Factors and Recommendations for Practitioners’. Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities 11 (2):92–98. [5] Parsonage, M., Khan, L., and Saunders, A. (2014). Building a better future: The lifetime costs of childhood behavioural problems and the benefits of early intervention. Centre for Mental Health [6] Newkirk, Katie, Maureen Perry-Jenkins, and Aline G. Sayer. 2017. ‘Division of Household and Childcare Labor and Relationship Conflict Among Low-Income New Parents’. Sex Roles 76 (5–6):319–33. [7] Griggs, J. and Bussard, L. (2017). Study of Early Education and Development (SEED): Meeting the needs of children with special educational needs and disabilities in the early years. London: DfE.
Article | parenting, disability
6 min read
ASD/ADHD diagnosis
What am I dealing with? While some disabilities and conditions can be diagnosed early on in a child’s life (perhaps even during the pregnancy), others can take a lot more time, which can be difficult for parents who are waiting to find out. Sometimes parents have this wait for several months or even years after the baby is born – this is particularly common for children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).This time of limbo can also be a time of friction for divorced or separated parents, as they might argue about what issue the child has or how to cope in the meantime. Why is communication so difficult? ‘Disability’ is a very broad term, and each disability or condition will affect the individual and their families in different ways. Where certain conditions are harder to diagnose like autism or ADHD, studies have shown divorced parents will typically argue over whether or not the child has the condition they suspect(1). They also argue a lot about the steps that need to be taken to getting a diagnosis. As the loving parents of your baby, one (or both) of you might be struggling to accept that your baby could have a disability and feel reluctant about having your baby tested. This form of denial means that, as separated parents, you might also find it difficult to talk about things practically and realistically. Parents that support their child’s additional needs as a couple living together can create routines, rules and a home environment that work for the child. Whereas living apart means that two sets of rules and routines are running separately. For a child that suffers with ADHD or ASD, this can be an even greater problem as they may not adapt well to change. Even following a diagnosis such as ADHD or ASD, it’s not as though there’s then a right or wrong way of raising your child. There’s no rulebook – it’s all about learning about your child as a person and how they handle their condition, then applying the medical knowledge of the condition where you can. And because there’s no right way or wrong way, one parent may think they understand the condition better than the other, which can lead to conflict. If one parent spends more time than the other with their child, they may feel they have closer first-hand experience of the disability. This can cause one parent to feel they are better informed to take lead in the decision-making. How do I help the situation? Learning to communicate better is even more difficult if you’re divorced or separated. But communicating better with your ex could make everyone’s lives a lot easier, including your child’s. Coming to terms with a potential disability is tough for any parent. And if your partner is showing signs of denial, you will need to talk to them sensitively given that they are using this denial as their coping mechanism. Try to approach the subject with care and take it slowly – they may just need some time to come around. Always try to be positive, even though this is a tough conversation to have. While your romantic relationship is over, the relationship still functions in a different capacity as parents – that relationship still needs work and effort. Although this is certainly easier said than done, try to put aside your feelings for the good of your child, and encourage them to do the same. You can still show one other respect, particularly where shared decisions need to be made. A recent US study found that: “In many divorced families, conflicting parental viewpoints are especially apparent when children do not have equal time in both households (1)*.” In other words, when the child spends more balanced time with both parents in their homes, the parents are less likely to clash. This likely comes down to the parents feeling that there’s a shared effort where both parents are playing their parts. Another way you could improve communication is with the help of a parenting plan – one that you don’t have to complete together in the same room. Parenting plans like Put Kids First are online, and enable you to work together separately in a more seamless way to help reach decisions without conflict or fuss.  References: [1] Pickar, Daniel B., and Robert L. Kaufman. “Parenting Plans for Special Needs Children: Applying a Risk-Assessment Model.” Family Court Review 53, no. 1 (January 1, 2015): 113–33. * Note: this research relates specifically to parents that have children diagnosed with ADHD.
Article | disability, children
4 min read
Relationships and sex education
Talking to your children about sex and relationships can feel scary, especially if you have a disabled child. But while it might be tempting to put it off, it’s best to start sooner rather than later. Most parents want their children to be well-informed on the subject of sex and relationships [1], and parents of disabled children and young people have a special role in providing support and guidance to enable their children to embrace the challenges of adolescence and grow into informed and confident adults.Throughout this article we use terms such as 'talk to’ and 'discuss' Not all children are able to communicate verbally, and you will know best how to explain some of these ideas to your child. Why do we need to talk about sex and relationships?  There is a tendency to think that disabled people, including those with severe disabilities, do not have sexual feelings, sexual needs and sexual capabilities. But they do. As a parent, you may sometimes feel uncomfortable about this. You may worry that your child will be vulnerable to exploitation, abuse or may become pregnant.Many parents worry that teaching children about sex will encourage them to become sexually active at a younger age. However, children who have received sound sex education are likely to become sexually active later than their peers. There is strong evidence to suggest that children have better outcomes around sexual health when there is good communication with their parents about sex and relationships [2].Defining sexuality as wider than just a physical function is particularly important for young disabled people. A person who is not able to use part of his or her body still has an equal right to full sexual expression. Similarly, a disabled young person should have the same access to sex education, sexual health care, and opportunities for socialising and sexual expression as other young people.Accepting that your child has these sexual feelings, and talking about sex, will help them to understand the difference between a loving relationship and abuse. It may also make it easier for your child to discuss difficult and painful feelings with you. Not knowing and understanding bodily changes and developments can be frightening and bewildering for your child.Remember that, even without ‘formal’ sex education, your child will still learn about sex and relationships in the playground, from the television, or online, where they may pick up any number of myths, misunderstandings and misconceptions. Avoiding the issue of sex and sex education will not make your child’s sexual development, feelings or desires go away, but it may cause unnecessary confusion and worry. When should I start talking about sex and relationships with my child? Sex education in schools is changing to keep up with the way young people form relationships, and you can support your child’s learning by talking to them at home. Think back to your own education – were your school lessons helpful? Did your parents talk to you? Or did you have to learn everything the hard way? What would you like to have learned that you didn’t? Starting the conversation before your child goes through puberty can take the embarrassment out of the subject, and open the door for future conversations. Children are more likely to want to talk to you about sex if they are used to talking openly to you – not just about their condition in general, but other things like money, school work, friends, and so on. Showing an interest in what your child does and says will boost their self-esteem. Encourage your children to talk to you about anything that worries them. Even children with severe communication difficulties may be able to indicate to a family member who knows them well that there are things they are worried about or which make them unhappy.  Start talking to your child early so that problems are less likely to arise – certainly before puberty. Talk openly and casually – while you’re doing something else, like washing up or driving the car – as this gives the message that it is not something secretive or to be afraid of. Be open about your own beliefs and attitudes, but be prepared to discuss them and listen to your child’s point of view. Read books and leaflets and watch videos to inform yourself. When talking about sex, take your child’s condition into account and be realistic. For example, it might take longer; it might mean experimenting a little. Reinforce the fact that the most important aspects of a relationship are love, friendship and mutual respect. Listen without judgement. Try asking your child what they think. Answer questions and don’t be afraid to say: ‘I really don’t know – let’s look it up together’. Don’t bombard your child with questions or talk too much. Many children say it is awful to get a formal lecture on sex or have questions fired at them: ‘I asked a question and she immediately came back with, “Are you having sex then?”. Try and hold onto your anxieties. Answer their questions and respect their privacy. Remember that disabled people have relationships with other disabled people and with non-disabled people. Remember that same sex relationships are as common for disabled people as for non-disabled people. As they get older and become more interested in sex, they’ll find it easier to come to you for support as you’ve already shown that you’re available to talk about it. You’ll also feel more confident about answering their questions [3]. “At special school it was terrible. The assumption was that we wouldn’t have and didn’t deserve sexual relationships”.“I received sex education at home and my disability was not really discussed as an issue. My mum once said to me that she thought it might take me longer than most to get a boyfriend but she was sure I would eventually and she was right!”  Understanding relationships and sex education  Relationships are changing. As young people spend more time interacting online [4] [5], they face new challenges around sex and relationships like sexting, cyberbullying, and the ready availability of online pornography. The way relationships education is taught in schools is changing too. The switch from SRE (Sex and Relationships Education) to RSE (Relationships and Sex Education) is not just an arbitrary name change – it reflects the importance of learning about sex within the context of understanding how relationships work and how to stay safe. As well as factual knowledge about sex and sexual health, your child’s education at school may include lessons about: Different types of relationships. How to recognise and understand healthy and unhealthy relationships. Staying safe online. How relationships can affect health and wellbeing [1].  RSE lessons at school can be a good opportunity for you to build on what your child is learning by starting your own conversations at home.  The changing nature of relationships With the rising costs of living and of higher education, young people face greater challenges to becoming financially independent and are living at home later than previous generations [6]. With reduced funding for social and healthcare services, it may be even harder for disabled young people to access independent living and you may find your children live with you well into adulthood. Staying at home for longer can put further pressure on young people when they start forming relationships of their own. They will have less private time to spend together during important stages of their relationships and long-distance relationships may become more likely [6]. Access to social media can ease a lot of this pressure, providing positive outlets for social interaction. Being able to chat online can be invaluable to people who are shy or struggle to get out and interact with others. It may make it easier for disabled young people to talk to friends, express themselves, and be creative [5]. Understanding how young people use the internet can help you to be a guiding light in their online lives. While there are risks and vulnerabilities associated with being online, such as cyberbullying and controlling behaviour, social media is usually a positive force in young people’s relationships, allowing them to stay in touch more often than they might otherwise have been able to [7]. By being aware of the benefits as well as the risks, you can put yourself in a better position to support your child’s use of online social networks which may improve their experiences of relationships [5]. So, start young. Talk about the positives as well as the risks. Answer their questions honestly; accept that, like most adults, they will become interested in sex; and give them the knowledge that will help them make smart decisions about relationships. Further help If this is a difficult topic for you, you might want to look into the Speakeasy programme and the information provided by the sexual health charity FPA, which aims to increase your knowledge and confidence so that you can develop a more open approach to talking about sex and relationships at home. It is designed to be accessible and considers physical disabilities and learning disabilities in the way it is delivered [8].You can also read Contact’s in-depth guide for parents on Growing up, sex and relationships. Written with parents and young disabled people, it has information on developing your child’s self-esteem, talking about sex and relationships, sexual development and puberty, contraception and STIs, protection from abuse and more. They also have a guide for young disabled people. References [1] Changes to the teaching of Sex and Relationship Education and PSHE A call for evidence - Launch date 19 December 2017. Respond by 12 February 2018 (DfE: London) [2] Kirby, D. (2008). Increasing communication between parents and their children about sex. British Medical Journal, 337, a206. [3] Feldman, S.S., and D.A. Rosenthal. (2000). The effect of communication characteristics on family members’ perceptions of parents as sex educators. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 10, 119–50. [4] Ofcom. (2017). Internet use and attitudes: 2017 Metrics Bulletin. Retrieved from https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/105507/internet-use-attitudes-bulletin-2017.pdf [5] Frifth, E. (2017). Social media and children’s mental health: a review of the evidence. Education Policy Institute. [6] Coleman, J. (2010), the Nature of Adolesence. Routledge: London.  [7] Stonard, K. E., Bowen, E., Walker, K., & Price, S. A. (2015). ‘They’ll Always Find a Way to Get to You’: Technology Use in Adolescent Romantic Relationships and Its Role in Dating Violence and Abuse. Journal of Interpersonal Violence. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260515590787 [8] Kesterton, D, and Coleman, L. (2010). Speakeasy: a UK-wide initiative raising parents' confidence and ability to talk about sex and relationships with their children. Sex Education, 10, 437-448.
Article | sex education, children
6 min read
Acknowledging stress with disabled children
Becoming parents is often the most stressful thing any couple can go through. The new demands you face as parents can change the entire dynamic of your household and you may need a whole new set of coping strategies [3]. Stress is part of life – it can be a motivator, driving us forward, and giving us the push we need to make positive changes in our lives. But, when it gets overwhelming, it can hinder us and make us less effective. You can’t make stressful situations disappear, but you can learn to make them more manageable by changing the way you react to them. Acknowledging your stress is the first step towards this.  As the parent of a disabled child, it’s likely that you may face higher levels of stress than other parents – daily tasks like bathing and dressing your child can be more stressful [1] [2].  It can be hard to detach yourself emotionally from whatever is going on with your child, particularly if they have a condition that requires constant management [3]. When your chosen coping methods haven’t worked and things don’t seem to be improving, your stress can start to feed itself and it might feel like things will never improve [4]. If you’ve been hiding from your stress, or hoping it will go away, it’s time to look it in the eye, acknowledge that it’s there, and let it know who’s boss.  The value of acknowledging your stress  As a parent, your instinct might be to set your stress aside and push forward to get everything done. It might feel like you don’t have time to acknowledge your stress, but doing so can allow you to take hold of the reins and give yourself more power to deal with it [3].  As you become more aware of stress, you become more able to deal with challenging situations. You may notice that your stress levels start to ease, making you a more effective parent, and a happier partner [4]. You can even start letting go of the stress caused by past incidents and building a route to recovery [3]. Keep a mood journal Make a note of all the times you feel stressed. What happened, how did you feel, and what did you do about it? Approach this as a curious observer, and avoid making judgements. For the moment, you just want to gather a record so that you know what you’re dealing with. Avoiding judgement means you can be more honest with yourself about how you’re feeling. Notice your reactions to stress Do you grind your teeth, hunch your shoulders, or bite your nails? Are you drinking or smoking more than usual? Whatever you do as a reaction to stress, make a note of it, and how you felt afterwards. You may notice that your reaction to the stress doesn’t actually make it go away and, in some cases, can make it worse. The more you understand this, the better equipped you’ll be to start adjusting your coping strategies. Describe the physical symptoms Naming your feelings can make them feel less abstract and more like something you can deal with. As well as emotional words like ‘anxious’ or ‘miserable’, write down the physical feelings like ‘tight stomach’ or ‘jelly legs’.  Do a health check Take note of how you’re eating, sleeping, and exercising. Your physical and mental health are linked, so look out for patterns in the way your health habits affect your reactions to stressful situations. Try some breathing exercises If you’re finding it hard to acknowledge your stress, stop and take a deep, slow breath in through your nose. Release it gently through your mouth. Do this again. Close your eyes and focus on your breath for a few moments. Investing this time will be worth it for the time you win back by learning to deal with your stress. Accept that there are some things you can’t change Even though you can’t always change your circumstances, you can often change the way you respond to them. This starts with your internal, emotional response, which is what you’ve been learning about through your mood journal. Recognising your current responses can be enough to nudge you towards making a different response in future, such as stopping and taking a few calming breaths before continuing. Tell someone else Talking to someone can help you articulate your stress, and understand it better. If things have been difficult in your relationship, describing your stressful reactions to your partner can help them understand what you’re dealing with. Sit down with your partner, let them know you’ve been feeling stressed, and talk through the steps you’re taking to understand and conquer your stress. Involve your partner Be aware that your partner may also be under pressure, and encourage them to share their experiences with you too. If it feels appropriate, you can even keep a journal of your experiences together. In times when one of you is feeling stronger than the other, having an established process can make it easier to offer support. Moving on As you begin to develop a picture of your usual response to stress, you may notice patterns and links. Sometimes, just being aware of these is enough to start shifting them, but you may find it also helps to vary your routine and try to vary your responses. Start with small changes and notice what happens as you mix things up. Does replacing your second cup of coffee with a green tea make the morning feel less manic? Does stopping to breathe in the middle of hanging out the washing make it feel less like it’s taking the whole afternoon? Little things can make a big difference. One of the most powerful steps you can take is to reach out to others and ask for help. This can include social support from your partner or other people close to you, and support from professionals like therapists and counsellors [3]. If you feel you could benefit from some extra help, even if only for a little while, it’s important to seek help. Speak to your GP, or a member of your child’s support team, and let them know you’re finding it hard to cope. Keep asking until you get the right support for you – as a wise parent once said, “you can’t pour from an empty cup… look after yourself as well!” For more advice, including where you can go for support, visit Contacts advice page on coping with stress.  References [1] Estes, A., Munson, J., Dawson, G., Koehler, E., Zhou, X., & Abbott, R. (2009). Parenting stress and psychological functioning among mothers of preschool children with autism and developmental delay. Autism, 13(4), 375-387. [2] Zablotsky, B., Bradshaw, C., P., & Stuart, E., A. (2013). The Association between Mental Health, Stress, and Coping Supports in Mothers of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 43(6), 1380-1393. [3] Dardas, L., & Ahmad, M. (2015). Coping Strategies as Mediators and Moderators between Stress and Quality of Life among Parents of Children with Autistic Disorder. Stress and Health, 31(1), 5-12. [4] Hayes, S., A., & Watson, S., L. (2013). The Impact of Parenting Stress: A Meta-Analysis of Studies Comparing the Experience of Parenting Stress in Parents of Children with and without Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 43(3), 629-642.
Article | stress, disability
6 min read
Moving house with a disabled child
Moving house is one of the most stressful things a family can go through. When you have a disabled child there are many extra factors to consider, on top of the usual expense and logistics of moving to a new location.  One of your biggest considerations will be your child’s support network, which includes not only schools, medical care and other local services, but also the support you get from family and friends. Even if you’re moving specifically to be closer to family, you may be moving away from other support that you’ve learned to rely on. When moving to a new location, you can help make the transition smoother by setting up as much as possible in advance. You may find it helpful to consider the following areas of support [1]. Access and information Find out where your new local services will be and how to access them. You should be able to find information about services and support for disabled children on any local authority website. If you are receiving services and support from the local authority where you live now, make sure you talk to them about transferring to your new local authority, as you may have to undergo a new assessment. There’s an expectation that the local authority where you live will at least liaise with the new authority about your child’s needs and support in the interim. You may also want to find out about what any registration processes and what you will have to do. If there is a waiting list, find out how long you are likely to have to wait and, if appropriate, get on the list as soon as possible. Cost Affordability is one of the main barriers between parents and services. Check if there are cost differences in services between where you live now and where you are moving to. Unfortunately, if you are receiving payments or funding for certain services now, your new local authority is not under any obligation to provide the same level of support or help in the interim while waiting for a new assessment to be carried out. Seek advice about this from the Contact helpline on 0808 808 3555, helpline@contact.org.uk. You may wish to factor this into your budget if you are able, and, if necessary, work out where you can make savings. Schools One of the biggest challenges you are likely to face is how to integrate your child into school and the wider community. How easy or hard this is for you will depend largely on where you are moving, and the age of your child.  Many parents find it difficult to push back against the status quo, concerned that they might be thought of as a ‘trouble parent’ [1], but it’s important to find a balance. Your child’s school experience is an essential part of their wellbeing and will help them to develop social skills for forming relationships as they get older. If there’s anything you’re not happy with, ask for something to be done about it, or consider other options. You’ll probably have started looking at schools as soon as you started considering the move. It’s also worth investigating community activities and other social opportunities for your child. If your child is receiving extra help at school, for example they have a statement of special educational needs, Education, Health and Care plan or Coordinated Support Plan, speak to the teacher responsible at school, and find out how the move to a new school will be managed. Again, seek advice from Contact’s education advice line about this on 0808 808 3555, email helpline@contact.org.uk Family support The work that goes into parenting a child with disabilities can take up so much of your time and energy that friends and family end up taking a back seat [2], but it’s impossible to put a value on having people living nearby whom you can rely on. Support from friends and extended family support can help you cope with the additional time demands and unpredictability of parenting [1] and, most of the time, it doesn’t cost anything. If you haven’t yet decided where to move, consider areas that are near supportive friends and family. They may even be able to offer advice on local services. Don’t assume they’ll always be able to support you though – other people shouldn’t be the only reason you move. Remember that if they decide to move away in a year’s time, you’ll still have to live in the new location.  It’s important to access whatever support is available, as it can allow you to spend quality time with your other children, and with each other as a couple [1]. If you are moving somewhere you won’t have family locally, make sure you check out options for respite care and other support such as counselling, sibling support and childcare. If funded support isn’t available, calculate the likely costs of any support you would have to pay for, and factor this into your moving plans. General tips Moving is stressful for everyone. These general tips may help to take some of the pressure off once you are ready to make the move. Look after yourselves Remember that you and your partner will also be affected by the upheaval of the move. During the build-up, eat well and try to get enough sleep. Don’t forget to think about activities that you can do in your new place, and make plans to explore the new area together. Clear your schedule During the week of the move, take some time off work and arrange for someone to look after the children, so that you can focus on getting everything else sorted. Let yourself off the hook You’re probably going to feel anxious and stressed for a bit, so don’t beat yourself up for not being perfect. Give yourself some space. Do some slow breathing. Talk to someone. Accept help If anyone offers practical support with your move, say, yes! Hand over a copy of your to-do list if you have to – just let people help. Focus on the positives Remind yourself of why you are moving – better job prospects, a nicer location, or perhaps just a home that suits your family’s needs better. Whatever it was that led you to make the decision to move, keep it in mind, and look forward to the things that matter most. References [1] Resch, J. A., Mireles, G. Benz, M. R., Grenwelge, C., Peterson, R., & Zhang, D. (2010). Giving Parents a Voice: A Qualitative Study of the Challenges Experienced by Parents of Children With Disabilities. Rehabilitation Psychology, 2010, 55(2), 139-150.  [2] Brannen, M. A., & Heflinger, C. A. (2006). Caregiver, child, family, and service system contributors to caregiver strain in two mental health service systems. The Journal of Behavioral Health Services and Research, 33, 408 – 422.
Article | parenting, disability
7 min read
If your child isn't sleeping well
A child who does not sleep well can affect the whole family. Parents can be left exhausted, unable to think clearly and struggling to cope with their daily activities. The child can be left feeling over tired or over-active, both signs of lack of sleep. Brothers and sisters are also affected, feeling tired at school, and sometimes resentful towards the sibling disturbing their sleep. If this continues over a long period of time, it can have an adverse effect on the health and wellbeing of all members of the family. For you and your partner, sleep may become a kind of currency for your day-to-day living, that you need to make everything else in your life work and click together. Without sleep, it’s harder to manage our emotions, to be logical, to complete daily tasks, and to be loving to each other. There’s not much energy leftover for you as a couple. How you can help your relationship: Whatever the cause of your child’s sleep difficulties, it’s wouldn’t be normal if you didn’t feel stressed and irritable when you’ve both been losing sleep [1]. Sleep deprivation can also make you worse at managing your own emotions. This is partly due to being more easily irritated - you’re more likely to quick-fire an emotion before you’ve allowed yourself the space to think through your reaction. If you’re in this situation, it can be helpful to: Recognize when you’re on a hair-trigger. Allow yourselves the space to respond to each other in a slower manner. By being aware and mindful of your tendency to fire from the hip, you can encourage one another to take more time, and even give yourselves a few seconds delay – it could help stop you saying something you regret. Put difficult conversations on hold. At times, it may be worth saying to your partner “I’m not in the right place to have this conversation, can we talk about this later?”, or “I need to not talk about this right now, can we just not?” Stopping a conversation you just can’t manage, in a respectful way, is sometimes the right thing to do. Dealing with difficult issues often comes down to choosing the right moments. Be sensitive to your partner. If tiredness is taking its toll on your partner and you can see they’re over tired and stressed, sometimes it’s not wise to launch a conversation, even if you’ve got an issue that you really want to discuss. Play the long game. The reason these actions are so worthwhile is because your child’s sleeping difficulties may be an ongoing issue. And, as with any ongoing issue, the small things you say and do will rack up over time. So play the long game; if you both make sure that you use kind words, assure each other that there are solutions, remind them that you’ll make it through together as a family, bring them tea, offer them things, and try to show each other that you’re considering them. By staying positive and being loving in small ways, you’d be surprised how much difference this can make over time. Be prepared that you may not be rewarded for this in the short-term – sleep deprivation can cause us to miss the kind deeds that are happening right in front of us – but it will help in the long term. How you can help your child  86% of children with additional needs have issues with sleep, so if you’re experiencing difficulties, you’re not alone. There can be various reasons for this. It is important to seek medical advice to make sure there is not a medical cause for your child’s problem sleeping. There are also many different strategies and approaches to helping children sleep. We recommend that you always consult a GP or relevant health practitioner before attempting to change a child’s sleeping habits. And it may be worth seeking help from a sleep specialist, ideally one that understands sleep disorders in relation to your child’s condition. Regardless of what techniques you are advised on, or whatever techniques you’re currently trying, remember that improvements in a child’s sleep may take some time. Research suggests that after changes are made, improvements in a child’s sleep often occur gradually, and for some parents their child’s sleep problems become more challenging before improvements are reported [2]. If you’re trying new things, (for example, a new bedtime routine, withdrawal of attention during the night), you may also find that there is also an initial resistance from your child. In other words, it can be darkest right before the dawn, and parents may need to endure a short-term worsening of the problem [3]. Whatever your situation, you can read more about techniques, resources and organisations that can help you and your child sleep in Contact's guide for parents, Helping your child sleep available free to parents who contact their freephone helpline on 0808 808 3555, helpline@contact.org.uk References   [1] Tietze et al., 2014 [2] Stuttard et al, 2015  [3] Beresford et al., 2012
Article | children, disability, communication
4 min read
Choosing childcare
Choosing childcare that suits your child’s specific needs can feel overwhelming. Whatever your circumstances, the following information can help you figure out what you should be thinking about with your partner when you start looking at childcare options. To learn more about where to find childcare for disabled children, how to pay for it, and how you can qualify for free childcare places, visit Contact’s website. There is also have information on your legal rights to childcare, what to do if a childcare setting is not inclusive, and what to do if you’re refused your chosen childcare place. How to choose a childcare setting Childcare settings can provide valuable early education, including the social skills that come from forming positive relationships with other children and adults. This positive real-world experience can help your child to be better prepared for the wider world, whatever their specific needs.When choosing between available childcare options, your decision may be largely instinctive – most parents are drawn to caregivers who seem warm and friendly [1]. This makes sense, given that they are going to be looking after your child. You could also consider the caregiver’s education and the type of curriculum they offer [1]. As you look for a childcare provider who can meet your child’s unique needs and abilities, consider the following questions: Will your child be given the freedom to explore new experiences? Will their curiosity be encouraged? Will they be provided with choices that support their learning and development? [2]. Does the provider have the appropriate training to take your child? Consider things like Makaton language, health and safety, dealing with medication and equipment, and disability awareness training.  As well as finding a childcare provider who offers the best education and support for your child, you will need to find something that fits your family’s schedule [3]. You and your partner will need to agree on what days and times you need the childcare, what you can afford, who works on what days, and how you will drop off and pick up your child. Be prepared to make a bit of a trade-off between your ideal setting and what you can realistically choose. Making decisions together  When you’re making these vital decisions, it’s important to respect each other’s views so you can come to a decision that feels right for both of you. Arguments often happen because we stop listening to each other. If, during an important conversation, you find your thoughts drifting towards what you want to say next, and how to get your own point of view across, you may need to practise your listening skills.Good listening is about taking the time to understand where someone is coming from. If you don’t take the time to listen, your partner won’t feel heard and tension can escalate quickly. Under these circumstances, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to listen to you in return and the conversation will go nowhere. You might find it helpful to draw up a list of pros and cons for each situation you’re considering so you can weigh these up against each other’s personal preferences, and reach a decision that feels logical and fair. What if you disagree? You won’t agree on everything all of the time. If you feel tensions rising, there are ways you can diffuse the situation. It can be hard put yourself in someone else’s shoes during a disagreement because it requires you to step outside of yourself and all your own feelings for a moment. But, if you manage to pull it off, you can often see why your partner’s view makes sense to them, even if it doesn’t make sense to you.  Sometimes you might just need to agree to take some time on your own and pick the conversation up again when you both feel a bit calmer. This can help you to see each other’s viewpoints, which can make your discussions more effective and constructive. Getting the right place  Parents say they often have to be creative and flexible in their approach to finding childcare for their disabled child. It can involve negotiations with local providers that they may not otherwise have had to make. For more information about the law and childcare, including template letters for childcare and funding providers, see Contact. “As Lillie-Mae’s needs increased as she got older, it was mutually agreed between the nursery management and myself that they should apply for top-up finding from the local council to provide one-to-one care services for my daughter”. “My son needs to be fed through a gastrostomy tube so when he started at nursery the staff all received the relevant training from a local community nurse. As a result, I have full confidence in their ability to provide safe and good quality childcare for him”.  “I managed to find a local nursery that was wheelchair accessible and offered one-to-one care, 35 hours a week at no additional cost. This was all funded by the local council”. “I currently pay for a full-time nanny for my children rather than take up the government’s offer of free childcare per week due to a lack of suitable facilities in my local area”.  References [1] Rose, K. K., & Elicker, J. (2008). Parental decision making about child care. Journal of Family Issues, 29(9), 1161-1184. [2] Gamble, W., Ewing, C., & Wilhlem, A. (2009). Parental Perceptions of Characteristics of Non-Parental Child Care: Belief Dimensions, Family and Child Correlates. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 18(1), 70-82.  [3] Rose, K., Johnson, A., Muro, J., & Buckley, R. (2016). Decision Making About Nonparental Child Care by Fathers: What Is Important to Fathers in a Nonparental Child Care Program. Journal of Family Issues, 1-29.
Article | children, disability
4 min read
Being parents to disabled children part 1
There’s a common cultural assumption that having a disabled child is a negative thing [1]. This is perhaps most noticeable when the child is born and friends and family offer sympathy rather than celebrate your parenthood. This usually comes from a good place, of course - people’s first thoughts might be about how you’ll cope with the challenges coming your way. These expected challenges will vary from parent to parent depending on the individual needs of the child. Here are some common hardships that parents face: Intensive or unpredictable childcare demands. Difficulty getting the right support. Changes to working arrangements (which can link to financial strains). [1] But, despite all of these challenges and negative assumptions, two out of three parents say having a disabled child has been positive for their family, according to a 2015 study by the University of Alberta, Canada [1]. So what are the upsides? What do these parents mean by ‘positive’? Here are some common responses: “Personal growth and stronger relationships between family members” [1] It’s sometimes difficult to know how far people are willing to go to help you, especially when it comes at a personal cost to them. It’s times like this when you can really find out what your family are made of, and what they’re capable of in terms of support. Some family members can surprise you! Having more help can also mean that you build better relationships with wider family members. Unlike the way families live in other parts of Europe, where wider families share more of everyday life together, in the UK we typically have what’s known as ‘nuclear’ families. That means we keep our ‘immediate’ family very close and the extended family at a distance, meeting up with them only at special events like weddings, birthdays and Christmas time. If your wider family break the nuclear pattern, you might find you have access to a wider pool of support. Another thing about being British is that some of us might not be so good at accepting help; we often reject offers out of politeness or worry that we’re putting people out. By accepting help though, the relationship has a chance to develop in a way that it otherwise might not. Family members might even relish the opportunity to care for you in a practical way that they know you’ll appreciate. Of course, this isn’t limited to family in the blood relative sense. This extends to friends that become very much part of your family network and community. For your child, broadening your community like this can really help them as they grow. “Changes in perspective (e.g. understanding what is important in life and making the most of each day)” [1] Some parents in the study described their perspective as ‘simplified’ (which is a goal that many self-help books are trying to accomplish), and were empowered with a stronger sense of priority. This could be down to the higher demands of attention and focus, which can cause all the fluff and minutiae of life to fade into the background. This fresh perspective is especially helpful for an “always connected” society of people whose attention is often pulled in a million different directions. If you’re experiencing this perspective shift, you might find that it extends to your relationship, giving you and your partner a new realisation of your strength as a couple.   References   [1] David McConnell, Amber Savage, Dick Sobsey & Bruce Uditsky (2015) Benefit-finding or finding benefits? The positive impact of having a disabled child, Disability & Society, 30(1), pp.29-45.
Article | parenting together, disability, family
3 min read
Back to school blues?
It’s back to school for the kids.Many parents will feel a deep sense of relief when they read that sentence.But for parents with disabled children (and for the family as a whole), September can be stressful [1]. This might be for a few reasons. Any transition is generally more difficult By the time your children are of school age, you’ll have come a long way to understanding their difficulties and complexities, and figured out some kind of schedule and process to deal with those difficulties. Any change to the routine, and entering a new phase away from the norm can be a challenge. New start = new people If your child is moving up a year in school, transitioning to another stage or going to a new school, they may be working with new teachers, classroom professionals, helpers or carers. This can be challenging for two reasons. First, your child needs to readjust to new people, and second, you might feel that you’re pressing the reset button on the experience and learnings that your child made with previous carers and teachers. There’s more to think about If your child is starting a new school, then you also have the pressure of learning about the school system, school routines, and the knock-on effect of these routines [3]. You may also need to consider the role of related service providers, such as physical therapists or speech therapists.If you and your partner are tackling these September challenges together, you might find that the resulting stress has been testing on your relationship. As with any upcoming stressful event, feelings of worry or anxiety can creep in gradually. You may have found that the last couple of weeks have been progressively more difficult between you.You may also find that one of you is more stressed than the other when it comes to your child going back to (or starting) school. According to research, this is very commonly the primary care giver (the person who spends the most time caring for their child). Which makes sense because they’re the ones more likely to carry the lion’s share of responsibility. This can also be a point of conflict in the relationship, because it can feel quite isolating and lonely if you’re anxious alone and carrying that stress by yourself.All of this is normal. But here are three things you can both do: Carry your partner’s concerns, and ask them to carry yours This is about removing feelings of isolation and that feeling of carrying a burden by yourself. If your partner is struggling more than you, it’s really helpful to listen to their fears and worries rather than discounting them. So make sure you empathise with them, even if you feel they’re getting unnecessarily worked up. While humour is a good mechanism to use, make sure you don’t make fun of their anxiety. This can backfire massively and will undo all of your empathy work. If you make light of it, you’re not with them on it. And if you’re not ‘with’ them on it, they’re alone with their stress again. Use the time to see friends and family Evidence has repeatedly shown that keeping connections open with family and friends will strengthen your ability as a couple to handle challenges and stresses. So when your child goes back to (or starts) school, make sure you block out some time for this. Maybe even leave the house to visit them rather than letting them come to you. That way, you can change your environment - an excuse to leave the house is sometimes helpful. Talk about what you’re going to do with your time Planning how you’re going to spend your time will help you switch the mind-set to a more positive one, and to think about yourselves a little. Because getting time together is important. We know parents often have to juggle their leave to look after the children, but if one of you works full-time, you could think about planning some time off work in the week to do something you enjoy together. This could be anything from lunch at the pub, a trip to a museum, walk in the park or just a super-relaxing duvet day together, where you can relax and feel restored. Getting this down-time together is great for you as a couple and as parents. You’ll improve your overall mood and functioning, and you’ll find yourself more able to cope with the back to school blues.   References: [1] Myers and Effgen, 2006 [2] Podvey et al, 2010 [3] Hanson et al., 2001; Dockett and Perry, 2002
Article | parenting, school
4 min read
Children with behavioural issues
If you have a child with challenging behaviour, you are not alone. There are many reasons disabled children exhibit challenging behaviour, and there are often complex reasons behind a child’s behaviour. In many ways, parents of disabled children lead similar lives to parents of non-disabled children, but the differences can be a source of increased mental distress and exhaustion for parents [1] [2]. When our children have behaviours that challenge us, we have to learn to think outside the box in ways most parents don’t have to contemplate. You may feel under a lot of pressure. The feeling of being to blame, worry about not parenting well, and the feat that others think you are a bad parent are all too common. Parents can feel very alone and it can be a relief to discover that other parents are facing the same issues. If your child has behavioural issues, you are probably investing a lot of energy trying to keep things under control. This requires great organisation skills, and you may be left feeling that you don’t have the time to get everything done [3] [4]. This lack of time and energy can get in the way of your relationship with your partner, [5] [6], so it’s important to make sure you have adequate support in place to help you manage your child’s behavioural issues – not just for your child, but for your whole family. Talk to your partner Talk to your partner about what you’re going through, and the support you’d like to have. If one of you works and the other takes on the main caring duties, you may each feel that the other doesn’t understand what you’re dealing with every day. You may be able to give each other a few new ideas about how to ease the pressure. Or, it may help just to be able to talk about your day. Keep a journal While your child’s behavioural issues might be a result of their condition, there could be social factors at play too [7]. Try keeping a journal of your child’s behaviour and the social situations that surround it. Are there certain times of day, or certain groups of people that make things better or worse? Look for the links between your child’s social interactions and their behaviour so you can identify risk factors and make plans.  Beef up your parenting skills Studies have shown that working on your parenting skills can make things easier for you [7]. Some parenting courses are free but you may have to pay a fee, depending on the provider. Search online for courses in your area, or contact your local Children’s Centre or council to ask what’s available.  Get help from other family members Parents who have support from their extended families tend to cope better [8]. One of the toughest things for parents of children with behavioural issues is the sense of social isolation – speak to friends and family members and let them know that you would benefit from their support. Spend time with other parents One of the greatest sources of support for parents of children with behavioural issues is other parents in similar situations. Seek out other parents in your community, perhaps through your child’s support networks or school. This might feel like something you don’t have time for, but it could deliver its own reward, as community support helps break down your sense of isolation [7]. Being among other parents can also help you decompress by talking about your experiences, and learning from others’ successes [8].  Talk to your child’s school If your child is of school age, speak to their teacher or SENCO. The school is a big part of your child’s support network, so the staff should be aware of any behavioural issues. Ask them to work collaboratively with you and to keep an eye on things while you can’t. Parents tend to cope better when they have positive experiences with schools [8], so this is an important relationship to maintain.  It might take a while to build up a support network, so go one step at a time, and be easy on yourself. Lean on those closest to you for support first, and then branch out slowly. As things ease up, and your child’s support network grows, you and your partner will start to feel more in control. You may even find a few moments to dedicate to yourselves and each other. Contact a Family has a free guide for parents available from our helpline on 0808 808 3555 or free to download. Understanding your child's behaviour looks at: Why children behave in different ways. How to set the scene for good behaviour, recognising triggers and finding strategies. Managing specific issues, like tantrums or biting. Looking after yourself - people and organisations who can support you and your family. Puberty and the teenage years, plus much more. References [1] Parish, S. L., Rose, R. A., Grinstein-Weiss, M., Richman, E. L., & Andrews, M. E. (2008). Material hardship among U.S. families raising children with disabilities. Exceptional Children, 75, 72–91. [2] Plant, K. M., & Sanders, M. R. (2007). Predictors of care-giver stress in families of preschool aged children with developmental disabilities. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 51, 109 –124. [3] Worcester, J. A., Nesman, T. M., Raffaele Mendez, L., M., & Keller, H. R. (2008). Giving voice to parents of young children with challenging behavior. Exceptional Children, 74, 509–525. [4] Resch, J. A., Mireles, G., Benz, M. R., Grenwelge, C., Peterson, & R., Zhang, D. (2010). Giving Parents a Voice: A Qualitative Study of the Challenges Experienced by Parents of Children With Disabilities.  Rehabilitation Psychology, Vol.55(2), 139-150. [5] Brannen, M. A., & Heflinger, C. A. (2006). Caregiver, child, family, and service system contributors to caregiver strain in two mental health service systems. The Journal of Behavioral Health Services and Research, 33, 408 – 422. [6] Seltzer, M. M., & Heller, T. (1997). Families and caregiving across the life course: Research advances on the influence of context. Family Relations, 46, 395– 405. [7] Sanders, M. (1999). Triple P-Positive Parenting Program: Towards an Empirically Validated Multilevel Parenting and Family Support Strategy for the Prevention of Behavior and Emotional Problems in Children. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, Vol.2(2), 71-9. [8] Ludlow, A., Skelly, C., Rohleder, P. (2012). Challenges faced by parents of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Health Psychology, Vol.17(5), pp.702-71.
Article | parenting, disability
6 min read
Making the most of the school holidays
When you have a disabled child, the approach of the school holidays can feel like a daunting time. But you may find it helpful to know that your disabled child or young person has certain rights relating to play and leisure, and holidays. Taking a family holiday needn’t be out of the question - it needs more planning and research of course, but there are many organisations that provide holidays and holiday accommodation for families with disabled children. There are also organisations who can help you fund a holiday or leisure activities, see our guide to Holidays, play and leisure below. While the additional planning that goes into arranging a holiday might seem to take away some of the spontaneity of planning a break [3], there are a few different options for families wanting a holiday. One study looking at holidays for families with a disabled child [2] looked at three different ways families can go on holiday:  Individual holidays, where just one parent goes away Joint holidays, where the couple goes away together without the children Family holidays, where both partners and the children all go away together Many parents in the study seemed to enjoy the opportunity to have holidays on their own, making the most of having a bit of personal time and space, without the need to plan too rigorously. If you’d love to get away without the children (and we all need a break from time to time!), there are organisations who run great summer camps for disabled children, with activities like canoeing, biking or archery to suit all levels of ability.Some cater for children with complex health needs and have 24 hour nursing staff and carers on site. This can be a great way for your child to have fun, try new experiences and make friends. Siblings may be able to go too, or may be able to access other holiday camps or activities with their friends. Young carers projects often provide summer holiday activities for siblings - find your local young carers project at: http://www.youngcarer.com/young-carers-services Even if you can’t get away for a longer break, one study found that the majority of disabled children had very similar summer holiday experiences to non-disabled children. For example, ‘buddying’ system pairing disabled children with non-disabled children, helped break down the barriers between disabled children and mainstream activities. Having a non-disabled friend allowed disabled children easier access to youth clubs, cinemas, sports centres, etc. Another example is of two learning disabled teenagers who volunteered in a Saturday club and a holiday club for younger people. They described it as a ‘rewarding’ experience and said it allowed them to integrate more with other children. One 9-year-old boy interviewed in the study said: I wanted to go to the Saturday club… I like spending time with my friends. Once Friday’s over you won’t see them [friends], so I decided to go to Saturday club to be with my friends. [4] Disabled children also talked about going camping with scout groups, or taking family day trips to the beach or to theme parks as highlights of their school holidays. Half of the children in the study had attended organised play schemes, run by local children’s services or by voluntary services. All of them were generally positive about their experiences of the school holidays. But for many of us, going away as a family is key, because it gives us a stronger sense of connection with our family and friends, and also a feeling of being in control, and having more freedom and independence [2]. Leisure and recreational activities can give you a chance to get out and spend time together, which has been proven to improve quality of life [Jo et al]. In fact, memorable and meaningful experiences can be more valuable to your quality of life than material goods. The things you do are more important than the things you have [1].  Whatever your situation, and your needs at this time, Contact's guide to Holidays, play and leisure has information on what play and leisure options may be available, including days out, camping holidays for children, and wish-granting charities, who may fund a disabled child’s ‘wish’, which could be a holiday. It also has information about arranging holidays with disabled children, help to pay for holidays and finding holiday and travel insurance. References: [1] Oppermann, M., & Cooper, M. (1999). Outbound travel and quality of life: The effect of airline price wars. Journal of Business Research, 44(3), 179-188.  [2] Mactavish, J. B., MacKay, K. J., Iwasaki, Y., & Betteridge, D. (2007). Family caregivers of individuals with intellectual disability: Perspectives on life quality and the role of vacations. Journal of Leisure Research, 39(1), 127.  [3] Jo, S., Huh, C., Kosciulek, J. F., & Holecek, D. F. (2004). Comparison of travel patterns of families with and without a member with a disability.Journal of Rehabilitation, 70(4), 38. [4] Knight, A., Petrie, P., Zuurmond, M., & Potts, P. (2009). ‘Mingling together’: promoting the social inclusion of disabled children and young people during the school holidays. Child & Family Social Work, 14(1), 15-24.
Article | parenting together, children, school
5 min read
Looking forward
New Year tends to be a time of deep reflection. We reach the end of something, we close it up, and we look forward to starting something new. Of course this is all just a mind game. We’re not actually starting something new, it’s another month like the last – just without Christmas lights and with less turkey. But nonetheless, many of us still get all reflective and thoughtful. This reflective state we delve into often means looking back on the decisions that we’ve made, the events that have occurred, and the changes we endured in the last year. As parents, if you had a tough year last year, or it wasn’t what you expected it to be, then you might find yourselves wondering if this year will just be a repeat of 2015 - especially if the circumstances you faced are expected to remain the same. For example if you have a child who has a disability, or a special need, any challenges brought on by these factors will likely be consistent. The good news is that, even though your circumstances might be the same, your ability to cope, grow, and bond with your family don’t necessarily have to remain the same. Neither does the quality of your relationship with your partner which, when improved, can make everyday living feel lighter and challenges feel more manageable. Research shows that couples who build their bond of togetherness feel able to deal with challenges more effectively [1]. This applies to all couples, including those who have disabled children. Additionally, couples who talk about their upcoming challenges are better able to deal with them when they happen.   “The quality of couple relationships has a clearer link to the health, life satisfaction and wellbeing of partners and their children [2]” If 2015 felt quite bleak at times, remember that your current situation is not a forecast of your future. As you get to know your child and understand them better (along with their condition), you’ll find it easier to know what they need and how to make the best of your time together. To encourage yourself, think back to a few of the initial challenges you faced that you’ve already overcome - challenges that perhaps appeared insurmountable at the beginning and then, over time, became something that could be worked through. Hold these before-and-after moments in your mind and remember that things can improve, solutions can be found, and challenges can be overcome. For more information, consider visiting: Contact.org family life section Contact.org guide on relationships and caring for a disabled child Contact.org page on local support groups Contact.org helpline page, or call 0808 808 3555 References  [1] Coleman and Glenn 2009; Proulx et al., 2007; Robles et al. 2013; The Relationships Alliance 2014; Vaillant (2012) [2] Barrett et al., 2011; Cummings and Davies, 2010; Reynolds et al., 2014; Relationships Alliance (2014)
Article | Health, future planning
2 min read
Christmas time is jolly, but never easy
We all have different expectations of Christmas. Some people love it, and some people dread it. Others might try really hard to make it special, only to find it doesn’t live up to their expectations. The family tries to have a wonderful time, basking in the tradition and magic of the day, all the while side-stepping difficult moments and awkward family clashes. If you’re a family with a disabled child, you might find Christmas carries some additional challenges. For example, if your child relies on fixed routines (common for children with ASD for example), then the whirlwind of Christmas can feel like a big disruption to them. Even decorated rooms and the presence of a large tree in the room can be a hard adjustment as it’s such a break from the norm. Regular outings and planned events may also go out the window, which can be upsetting. Disabled children who struggle with communicating might find that, due to the number of people in a large family gathering, they don’t feel as heard or given the usual attention. This can be difficult, especially in noisy rooms full of people chatting.   You can help your child to cope with this by preparing a few things in advance, and talking them through what’s going to be happening on the day. If you’re putting up decorations, consider doing it gradually, or just putting up the tree on Christmas eve without making too big a deal of it. If you’ve got family coming over, set up a quiet room with some of your child’s favourite things so they can retreat if things get a bit much. If you are parents trying to make these preparations for their child and make time for one another, you might be struggling at this time of year. But you’re not alone. Even those without those extra challenges struggle through the festive season. Almost a third say they do not look forward to Christmas and a quarter admit to arguing more at this time of year than any other. These extra stresses can lead to pressure on your relationship with your partner. Lots of breakups and plans for divorce are at their highest during the weeks approaching Christmas day.So what can you do to help the situation? You may already be very aware of the ways to help your child cope with the changes and the excitement of Christmas day. If you’re not sure, it might be an idea to get in touch with your local support group or Carers’ Centre, where you can swap tips with other parents on how they do Christmas. You might hear some ideas you hadn’t thought of, and there may even be some community parties where your child can let off a bit of steam. It could be helpful to discuss with your partner which festive traditions are supporting your situation, and which ones are hindering it. For example, if having a huge meet-up with all the family puts too much stress on you, or if you struggle to divide your attention, you might choose to have a smaller, more intimate Christmas with just your immediate family. We’re often nostalgically connected to traditions, but remember; you’re free to make new traditions as well. We also recommend that you and your partner find a quiet moment for yourselves, just to remember that you love and support each other. It may be that you’ve only got the time and energy for a quick cuddle and a smile and an “I love you”, but the little moments can make a big difference. By reminding yourselves and each other of your mutual love and support, you’ll be building on the core relationship, and in a stronger position to tackle other challenges.  
Article | christmas, stress, parenting, disability
3 min read
Stress and disabled children
Finding out that your child has additional needs can bring about a whole array of emotions. Getting a diagnosis might take some time – according to the Genetic Alliance UK, about 50% of children with a learning disability don't have a definitive diagnosis. Parents may worry or feel guilty that their child has a disability, but it is important to remember that it is rarely anyone’s 'fault'. Whether you have a diagnosis for your child, or are waiting for one, it is likely that dealing with the practicalities of everyday life can seem to bring a lot of new stress into your life. Parents of disabled children often describe a constant battle for services and feeling unable to cope, dealing with professionals and the thoughts and opinions of friends and family. It’s natural for all parents to feel overwhelmed at times, but when you have a disabled child simple things like a trip to the supermarket can be fraught with anxiety, and getting your child out of the house can mean packing extra equipment or planning for bathroom or feeding breaks. While you may not be able to make stress go away completely, it’s worth learning some tips to manage it. This will help stop it spilling over to your relationship with your partner and other children (if you have them). How to manage stress Sharing your worries with your partner can create a sense of solidarity and togetherness, reminding you that you’re not alone and giving you strength to cope with the challenges you face [1]:  Talk to your partner about the things causing stress in your life. Perhaps you’ve had a bad experience where your child has had a very public meltdown. Maybe you’ve felt judged, or had to abandon your shopping for the safety of home. Tell your partner the story, but also talk about the feelings you had going through it. Look for solutions. Maybe it’s worth paying a little extra for online shopping or waiting for the weekend so one of you can stay home with your child while the other shops. If you can’t see a solution, try reframing the issue. Even if you’ve had to abandon a shopping trip, you’ve still made a brave attempt to get out. Learning something the hard way is still learning, and every tough experience makes you a little better at doing what you have to do. Reframing experiences like this can make it easier to cope in general. Find ways to relax together. You can search online, or ask your child’s professional caregivers for local organisations who offer breaks to carers, but even just making a half-hour weekly window to unwind can help you manage the day-to-day stress. Supporting each other helps you maintain your relationship during stressful times, making it easier to reduce stress and cope with negative emotions [2]. Approaching things as a couple, rather than as an individual, increases your capacity to deal with stress [3]. How to help your partner cope with stress If your partner is feeling stressed, you may need to step up and offer support. As an example, let’s take one of the big worries for parents of disabled children – money. Your situation may have changed dramatically since the birth of your child. Perhaps one of you has had to take on extra shifts to make ends meet while the other has stopped working to take on childcare. This can put a big strain on both of you. When your partner hits a bump in the road, it’s easy to become affected yourself or to shut the stress out, but you can help your partner cope by engaging and responding positively [4]:  Make some time and space for your partner to share their feelings. Stop what you’re doing and give your full attention, even if you find it stressful too. Take your partner seriously. Show an interest in what’s going on – while you can help your partner to reframe the situation, it’s important not to downplay the stress itself. Let your partner know you are there to support them, but also that you have faith in their ability to cope. Work with your partner to find a solution. For example, anyone who has attempted to fill in a claim form for Disability Living Allowance will know that it’s a stressful process that pries into some of the most difficult areas of your life. Though you’re probably tired and stressed yourself, helping out with something like this can ease the burden on both of you [1]. Many parents tell us that the best support and advice comes from other parents. There may be a local support group where you and other parent carers can share experiences and support each other. Parents describe meeting other parents of disabled children as a huge relief, finding out they’re not alone. Local support groups are also great way to find out what is happening in your area and get tips from other parents about local services. To find a support group near you, try the Contact helpline on freephone 0808 808 3555 or helpline@contact.org.uk. It can also be helpful to know that you have a right to taking a break from caring for your child. Short breaks allow you to spend time either with your other children or alone, so you can recharge your batteries, catch up on sleep, do vital jobs, and spend time with your partner. Remember, asking for help is not a sign of weakness or being a bad parent. Spending time away from your disabled child can also help foster a sense of independence in your child. This is particularly helpful for them as they grow up. You can find out how to go about getting a much-needed break on the Contact website. We all go through times of relative calm, and changes and challenges. If you feel you’re experiencing overwhelming stress it’s important to reach out to others for support – either a local voluntary organisation you’re in contact with, friends and family or your GP. Take advantage of all the support available. References [1] Bodenmann, G., & Shantinath, S. D. (2004). The Couples Coping Enhancement Training (CCET): A new approach to prevention of marital distress based upon stress and coping. Family relations, 53(5), 477-484. [2] Herzberg, P. Y. (2013). Coping in relationships: The interplay between individual and dyadic coping and their effects on relationship satisfaction. Anxiety, Stress & Coping, 26(2), 136-153. [3] Badr, H., Carmack, C. L., Kashy, D. A., Cristofanilli, M., & Revenson, T. A. (2010). Dyadic coping in metastatic breast cancer. Health Psychology, 29(2), 169. [4] Bodenmann, G. (1997). Dyadic coping-a systematic-transactional view of stress and coping among couples: Theory and empirical findings. European Review of Applied Psychology, 47, 137-140. [5] Crouter, A. C., Perry-Jenkins, M., Huston, T. L., & Crawford, D. W. (1989). The influence of work-induced psychological states on behavior at home. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 10(3), 273-292. [6] Fergus, K. D. (2011). The rupture and repair of the couple's communal body with prostate cancer. Families, Systems, & Health, 29(2), 95. [7] Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Coping and adaptation. The handbook of behavioral medicine, 282-325. [8] Repetti, R. L. (1989). Effects of daily workload on subsequent behavior during marital interaction: The roles of social withdrawal and spouse support. Journal of personality and social psychology, 57(4), 651. [9] Stanton, A. L., Revenson, T. A., & Tennen, H. (2007). Health psychology: psychological adjustment to chronic disease. Annu. Rev. Psychol., 58, 565-592.
Article | stress, parenting, disability
7 min read
Benefits of family recreational activity
We all know it’s important to get out, have fun and enjoy ourselves, but research suggests it’s actually good for our relationships and our families. Here we take a look at the evidence, and signpost to some helpful resources.For parents of disabled children, heading out for the day or enjoying a recreational activity outside the house usually requires a lot of organisation and planning ahead. It’s not always possible to just jump in the car and go, especially if your child needs supportive equipment or relies heavily on a rigorous routine.Having to plan everything to the letter can take the fun out of days out, and breaking routines can make things more difficult, but recent research suggests that doing an activity out of the house together as a family might well be worth the effort. “While the study has positive implications for the family as a whole, these outcomes were emphasized as particularly important for the children with a developmental disability.” A 2004 study from Mactavish & Schleien [1] found this to be especially true if families can: get a change of environment/scenery experience some spontaneity, and get a chance to socialise.    “Recreational activity” is just a catch-all term for a range of social, play, entertainment, and sporting activities. In the study, parents said the most popular activities by far were the physical ones, which included swimming; roughhousing games like catch or basketball; walking; and bike rides.Here are a few experiences from parents trying out more recreational activities as a family:  I give my child my undivided attention when we do activities together – where else is he going to get that? A chance to learn things, and a chance to feel more connected – for him and the rest of the family. Also, I do things in the hope that what we’ve done together will carry over to other things he does later on in life. Sam, as a 4-year-old, has a life almost as scheduled as mine – and I’m a lawyer! Needless to say, he’s exhausted by everything else that he’s programmed into . . . so although we think that activities that help him work on basic skills are beneficial . . . just as important to us, and probably more important to him, is that he gets to escape back to the life of a 4-year-old. Planning, planning, planning! That’s what it takes to get any family recreation activity going in our family – probably in any family with a kid with a disability. On the upside this is one way of making sure that everybody has a good time. On the downside, nothing is ever very spontaneous . . . so family recreation tends to get boring. Getting out of the house and doing things out in the community helps to make things feel a little less routine, less predictable. When those parents were asked about the main benefits of recreational activity together, here’s what came up as the most popular: “It makes us closer as a family” “It gives us something fun to do as a family” “It improves parents’ communication with the children” “It improves quality of family life” “Our children learn family values” Parents also said that family recreation time helped improve the quality of the couple relationship. Monotony can be a bit of a drain on couples just like it can with families - a simple change of scenery and a break from the norm can really create some space to enjoy one another’s company in a family context. It also builds on something known as ‘feelings of togetherness’ which make you resilient and help you cope with stressful situations. Together you form the foundation of the family setup, so getting some focused and intentional time together (away from the house, phones and computers) to just be together as a family will help solidify and strengthen that foundation.  References [1] Mactavish, J., & Schleien, S. (2004). Re-injecting spontaneity and balance in family life: Parents’ perspectives on recreation in families that include children with developmental disability. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 48, 123-141.
Article | family, disability
4 min read
Adapting to stress as a couple
Handling stress is a huge key to a high quality of relationship with your partner, and a happier family life [1]. This may be somewhat obvious, as stress is never a good thing, and no couple thrives on stressful situations. Unless you do, in which case, please teach us your ways! If you’ve never heard the term “locus of control” before, it refers to how individuals believe they can control their situation. In other words, how much control you THINK you have over any given situation in your life. Why are we telling you this? Well, your locus of control has been shown to directly impact the way you handle stress [2]. And as we’ve already established, how you handle stress is important for you, your relationships and your family.  So where do you fall on the locus of control scale? Here’s how you work it out. If you’re INTERNAL, you’re more likely to believe that events and circumstances are in your control. If you’re EXTERNAL, you’re more likely to believe that external forces like luck and fate determine your outcomes.   These are two ends of the spectrum of course, and most of us fall somewhere in-between. But according to research, you’ll be better at handling stress if you’re more INTERNAL. “Parental locus of control has also been recognized as an important component in influencing parental stress. Researchers have found that a family's perception of having internal control* over outcomes is related to reduced stress and greater positive adjustment in families of children with a disability [2].” For those of you who need to adapt to incoming stress right now, shifting your mind to think more with an internal locus of control might serve you well. If you’re parents and you’re struggling with stress throughout the summer holidays, then this might be useful for you to try out. How can you become more INTERNAL? Here are a few things you can do to get started: 1. Make a list of things you can control, and things you can’t. For example, if you’re a parent and your kids have been really demanding and tiring over the summer holidays, what you CANNOT control is their energy levels. But what you CAN control is how you respond to that energy. You CANNOT control bad behaviour, but you CAN control how you manage that behaviour. (for more on this subject, have a read of Contact'sguide on understanding your child’s behaviour). By doing this, you might begin to realise that you’re actually in a position of more influence and control than you first thought. If you can’t control certain situations, you CAN control your attitude to them, and you CAN control how you behave towards them. This might be worth doing with your partner so you can compare notes. Even just recognising the controls that you have can help you shift your mindset (you might find our information on mindfulness for parents of disabled children helpful). 2. Let your partner and others to help you If you’re insisting on tackling difficult situations alone and you don’t like asking for help, then you’re actually less likely to feel in control, because you reach burnout point. You might feel in control in the short term, but it’s difficult to maintain it the long-term. With more energy, you’ll feel more in control and better rooted. So reach out, and draw on your partner, your friends and family for their support. If they’ve let you down in the past, maybe it’s time to give them another chance. If you don’t have friends or family nearby, or relationships are strained, see the links below for information on how to get in touch with people who may help. 3. Look back at situations that felt out of control, but turned out alright in the end. It can be helpful to remind yourself that you’ve already come through so much, and you and your partner have survived to tell the tale. Getting extra support Please see the links below for information on how to get in touch with support, including other parents. These places should also have information on low cost or free things happening in your local area over the summer holidays: Your local parent support group – search for yours at: https://contact.org.uk/supportgroups In England Your local parent carer forum – find yours at: www.nnpcf.org.uk/who-we-are/find-your-local-forum/ The local offer on your local authority website – search for ‘local offer’ Your local carer’s centre - www.carers.org In Northern Ireland Family Support Norther Ireland can tell you what services are available in your area. This includes information about play and leisure. www.familysupportni.gov.uk/ You can also call Contact for more information about leisure and sports for children and young people in your area. Contact Northern Ireland: 028 9262 7552 In Scotland The Scottish Family Information Service can tell you what services are available in your area. This includes information about play and leisure. www.scottishfamilies.gov.uk/  You can also call Contact for more information about leisure and sports for children and young people in your area. Contact Scotland: 0131 659 2930 In Wales Your local Family Information Service can tell you what services are available in your area. This includes information about play and leisure. www.childreninwales.org.uk/in-your-area/family-information-services/ You can also call Contact for more information about leisure and sports for children and young people in your area. Contact Cymru: 029 20 39 6624 For ideas and help with holiday activities see Contact's holidays, play and leisure guide. References [1] The role of stress on close relationships and marital satisfaction, Ashley K. Randall & Guy Bodenmann, 2008 [2] Hastings and Brown, 2002
Article | stress
6 min read
Mindfulness for parents of disabled children
If you’re the parent of a disabled child, you might benefit from practising mindfulness in: Your relationship with your partner. Your role as a parent. But before we get into its usefulness and what the research says about it, let’s first take a look at what mindfulness actually is. Mindfulness is a moment-to-moment awareness of thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness has become a popular way for people to let go of their stress, and to ‘find’ themselves in the midst of their daily (and often very busy) lives. Studies have shown that practising mindfulness helps foster positive feelings like contentment, self-awareness, empathy and self-control. It soothes the parts of the brain that produce stress hormones and builds those areas that lift mood [1]. The practice of mindfulness is usually a guided process, and there are a number of exercises that can be used by everyone; you don’t need to attend a class. But you can also practice mindfulness simply by concentrating on your own breathing. There are lots of mobile apps with guided processes for mindfulness. Apps are a helpful option because they can sit in your pocket for the opportune moment – if you are busy looking after your disabled child, convenience is everything. Even if you only have time for 5-10 minutes it can still be very beneficial. It’s well worth doing a bit of research to find an app that you enjoy using, as the practice of mindfulness becomes more powerful when it becomes a daily habit. If you don’t like the sound of the person’s voice or what they are saying, you’ll be less likely to want to listen to the app! Now, let’s get back to the two ways that it can help you, and what the research actually tells us. 1. Your relationship with your partner We all face stressful, difficult and challenging situations, and our relationships would probably be a lot stronger without them. But it’s far too idealistic to expect stressful moments will completely go away; they are a fact of life in any relationship. Families with disabled children have to cope with significant emotional, social, physical and financial pressures, and everyone has different coping styles. Some people cope by focusing on a problem and finding solutions and strategies to improve the situation. Other people focus on finding ways to feel better about a situation by reinterpreting it, distancing themselves, or even denying or avoiding it. Partners can find these differences frustrating. Mindfulness can help us with our reaction to stressful events. By mentally preparing the mind and the body, we can be less controlled by situations when they occur, and we can handle conflict better. This creates some space for us to be the best versions of ourselves for our partners [2]. Mindfulness is also very much geared towards experiencing the present moment, and having a moment-to-moment awareness of the world around us. By being truly ‘present’ with our partners, this can help us become better listeners and focus on how to improve the problems we face. 2. Your role as a parent From a carried out on mothers with children who have autism (65%) and other disabilities (35%), mindfulness led to “significant improvements” in: Stress. Depression and anxiety. Sleep quality. Life satisfaction [3]. While this particular study carried out by the The American Academy of Pediatrics was aimed at mothers, the nature of the results suggest that fathers would also benefit. There’s more research to be done, but for now, the benefits are encouraging. If you want to try out some mindfulness, search for ‘mindfulness apps’ in your search engine to bring up information about free and paid Apps for iPhone or Android, plus reviews for them. Some focus on topics such as relationships, health or sleep. Try out a few to find the right one for you. Have you tried mindfulness for yourself, with your partner or with your family? Did you find that it made a difference? Or are you a little skeptical? We’d love to hear your thoughts – so please do leave us a comment or get in touch via our Facebook page. References [1] http://franticworld.com/what-can-mindfulness-do-for-you/ [2] Carson, J. W., Carson, K. M., Gil, K. M., & Baucom, D. H. (2004). Mindfulness-based relationship enhancement. Behavior therapy, 35(3), 471-494 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0005789404800285 [3] Dykens, E. M., Fisher, M. H., Taylor, J. L., Lambert, W., & Miodrag, N. (2014). Reducing distress in mothers of children with autism and other disabilities: a randomized trial. Pediatrics, 134(2), e454-e463 http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2014/07/16/peds.2013-3164
Article | parenting, disability, mindfulness
5 min read
Respite: better for the rest
If you can take a break from caring for your disabled child it can strengthen your couple relationship. Here we take a look at some of the research and explain how to go about getting some ‘you-time’.  Short breaks have been the key to our survival. They have allowed us to re-charge our batteries and have time for our other children and each other. This is necessary for any relationship but crucial for those with a disabled child in their family when having to cope with so many other pressures. When we asked parents what, if anything, had Imost helped their relationship since having their disabled child, the single most important factor was seen as time away from their disabled child - time to be with the partner and/or other child or children. [1]  Taking a break from caring for your child is not an admission of failure or a way of saying you don't care. A break is an opportunity to recharge batteries, spend time with others or pursue a particular interest. Short breaks (sometimes called ‘respite care’) may also allow your child to have a change of scene, try different experiences, have fun and make friends.Short breaks can include: Care at home - includes sitting or care attendant schemes, which provide someone to sit with or 'mind' your child. Day care away from home - includes nurseries, playgroups, out of school and weekend clubs and, during school holidays, access to playschemes. Overnight short breaks - includes an overnight sitting or nursing service if your child needs it. Residential breaks - includes residential homes, special units in hospitals and hospices. Family link schemes - where your child stays with another family on a regular basis or occasionally. What are the long term benefits for you, your relationship and your family life? A study from Oklahoma University found that psychological distress and anxiety of parents showed a notable decrease - even six months after having a break, parents’general well-being improved. [2] “When our child is looked after we spend quality time together”  Other research, with parents of children who have autistic spectrum disorder, found a direct link between the number of short break hours taken and relationship quality. In other words, for every hour of a break taken, the better the relationship. [3]  The researchers gave a very simple explanation for this: “Respite care helps reduce stress, which in turn affects marital quality.” It might just be that straight forward. How do I get a short break?  You should be able to find out information about short breaks and how to access them on your local authority website. Some short break schemes may be described as 'universal', which means they are available to all children and you don't need an assessment to access them. To see what short breaks may be available, you can also try contacting your local Family Information Service or use SENDirect to search for short breaks in your area. Families in Scotland can search for services at Shared Care Scotland, the national third sector organisation providing information on short breaks.   What if I’m refused a short break? It is quite common to hear statements like, ‘Our local authority no longer provides short breaks’ or, ‘We don’t do carers assessments in this local authority.’ If you find yourself in this situation, see Contact's guide to Challenging cuts to short breaks services (England), which has template letters you can use to write to your local authority: https://contact.org.uk/media/962264/challenging-cuts-to-short-break-services-final-3.pdf We are also encouraging families to write to their local council, to tell them why short breaks matter and to ask them to increase funding - see: https://contact.org.uk/news-and-blogs/short-breaks-matter-challenging-cuts-to-short-breaks-services/http://e-activist.com/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1918&ea.campaign.id=48496&ea.tracking.id=FB  “Taking time to be with yourself, your partner and your ‘normal’ child can re-establish relationships that are buried under doctors’ appointments, being told what they can’t do, and hopes and disappointments of life” “Find time for yourselves. Grab any help you can get!”  We’d love to hear about your experiences with respite and short breaks, and how you’ve managed them in the past. Have you found that your relationship has improved through using it? Has it helped you to lower your stress levels? Or did you find it hard to let someone else take care of your child? Do let us know and get in touch with us via Contact's Facebook page.  References [1] Contact a Family, No Time for Us – relationships between parents who have a disabled child December 2003 [2] The Influence of Respite Care on Psychological Distress in Parents of Children With Developmental Disabilities: A Longitudinal Study Larry L. Mullins, Karen Aniol, Misty L. Boyd, Melanie C. Page, and John M. Chaney, Oklahoma State University. [3] Harper, Amber; Dyches, Tina Taylor; Harper, James; Roper, Susanne Olsen; and South, Mikle, "Respite Care, Marital Quality, and Stress in Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders" (2013). All Faculty Publications. Paper 1497. http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/facpub/1497
Article | parenting together, disability
4 min read
Disabled children and behaviour issues
What is happening? Having a child with a disability is challenging for all members of a family. And as parents, adapting to a new set of circumstances like this can be difficult – even stressful. This stress may be impacting your relationship with your partner.  Why is this stress affecting our relationship so much? First of all, a decline in relationship quality is quite typical for any parent [1], and this is largely due to the stresses of becoming a parent. A lack of sleep, fatigue and having less quality time together are a few of the most obvious factors of this stress, which in turn make it more difficult to communicate, resolve issues and manage situations. Such stresses are exacerbated for parents that have children with disabilities. They sometimes behave in a way that is hard to control (if you’d like to learn more about managing behaviours, please click here.) According to research, stress levels for parents raising a child with autism tend to be higher than other disabilities [2]. This is partly due to the fact that the senses of ASD children are elevated, which sometimes makes behaviour even harder to handle. (If your child has ASD and you’d like to talk to someone, please click here to find out more) Another reason that this may be affecting you both is because you’re probably still adjusting to brand new routines, which might not come easy. Of course, adjusting to new routines is a challenge for any parent, but certain disabilities can cause behaviours to be unpredictable which is why adjusting can present even more of a challenge.    How can we help the situation? Remember that couples have gone through similar experiences to what you're going through right now, and they may have valuable tips and advice to offer. Consider checking out Contact's family group support pages and reach out to people who have children with a similar condition. Depending on the age of your child and your circumstances, you may find that you’re already beginning to adjust and form new routines. But even if that’s the case, it can still really helpful to talk to each other about how well you’re coping. You may even find that you can help others. If you’re struggling, don’t harbour it for the sake of staying positive. While a positive outlook is helpful, it’s also necessary to be real and honest. Hold on to the fact that, although raising your baby will be challenging, your roles as parents can still be fun, exciting and very rewarding. If the relationship stays strong and you’re committed to working together, there’s a much greater chance of that becoming a reality.  [3] References [1] Twenge et al., 2003; Mitnick et al., 2009 [2] Bouma & Schweitzer, 1990; Hastings & Johnson, 2001; Silva & Schalock, 2011; Zablotsky, Bradshaw, & Stuart, 2013. [3] Houlston, C., Coleman, L., Milford, L., Platts, N., and Mansfield, P. (2013) Sleep, sex and sacrifice: The transition to parenthood, a testing time for relationships? OnePlusOne: London.
Article | parenting, disability
3 min read
What is the formula for a healthy relationship?
Is your relationship a positive one, or a negative one? For most of us, the answer is… it depends on the day. Like anything in life (family, career, home), relationships work best when the positive feelings and actions outweigh the negative ones. On a good day, when your partner is treating you well, listening to you, loving you and making your life easier, the scales tip to the side of ‘positive’. On a bad day, when your partner criticises you repeatedly, doesn’t support you and takes you for granted, the scales tip the other way.According to research, the key to a healthy relationship lies in the balance of this scale – the positives vs. negatives that both parties bring. Now you might assume that a relationship with NO negatives should be the goal. Surely any relationship would work better with NO disagreements? Well, no. Fortunately for most couples, the negatives are important for a relationship too. Negatives can include personality clashes, impoliteness, selfishness, criticisms and so on. So negative interactions can actually benefit the relationship… but why? “[The role of negativity] in a healthy marriage may be to spur a cycle of closeness and distance that can renew love and affection. ‘Off’ times allow couples to become reacquainted periodically and heighten their love.”[1] In other words, negative interaction allows for the courtship to be renewed in some small way. As with a dance, sometimes you draw in close, and sometimes you create distance. But how MUCH of this negative do we need in our relationship? What IS the recommended balance? In relationship studies, we seldom see any kind of formula, but in this case relationship researcher John Gottman [2] has provided us with one. 5 Positive : 1 Negative This means that for every one negative interaction, in order to set the balance and keep your relationship nourished you need to experience five positive interactions. These “positive” ones don’t have to be impressive or romantic gestures. They could just be bringing your partner a cup of tea, or taking the kids off them for a bit to give them some free time. Or even just being polite, paying compliments, laughing, touching, smiling and showing support. When you’re facing difficult and challenging times as parents trying to run a family, you’re probably not in a position to make big sweeping gestures like cooking your partner a three-course meal, whisking them off for a weekend away or even taking them out for the evening. So it’s just as well that the positives in the 5:1 ratio don’t need to be extravagant or overtly romantic. “Stable and happy couples share more positive feelings and actions than negative ones. Unhappy couples tend to have more negative feelings and actions than positive ones.”[3] It’s worth noting that while a negative to every five positives is encouraged, the word ‘negative’ is quite broad and certain types of negative (or too many negatives on a consistent basis) can be particularly destructive to the relationship. These more damaging negatives include great stubbornness, contempt, defensiveness, withdrawal from interaction and acts of aggression or physical violence. These really exist outside of the ratio – it’s important to remember that some actions and behaviours are never beneficial to a relationship.Lastly, there may be some couples out there who experience a ratio with lower negatives of say, 10:1 or even 20:1 where negative interactions are rare. Some even claim they don’t experience negatives at all. In a social gathering where other couples are discussing what they all argue about, this couple will often turn to each other with raised eyebrows and a hokey grin before saying: “To be honest… we just don’t really argue, do we honey?” And the other one shakes their head and goes “Nope.”, both of them apparently quite confused about what everyone else could possibly be doing wrong in their relationships. But you needn’t worry about achieving this level of harmony with your spouse. According to research, while a ratio of even 100:1 could be effective in the short-term, in order to sustain a relationship (or marriage) with real staying power, 5:1 is the ticket. References   [1] “Why marriages succeed or fail” – John Gottman p.65 [2] https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/cfs/cfs-744-w.pdf [3] “Why marriages succeed or fail” – John Gottman p.56
Article | communication, big changes
4 min read
Financial pressures with a disabled child
What is happening to us? Many parents caring for a disabled child will tell you outright: the costs are greater. If that’s you, you might be finding that these extra financial stresses are causing a strain on your relationship. If, as a couple, you’ve never dealt with financial struggles or argued about money before, this may be new territory for you both. This can be tough to work through with your partner because the impact of financial worry is so consuming. And of course, it has an impact on almost every aspect of daily life, which makes it harder for your relationship to thrive. Why is this happening? Many families endure financial hardships but, financially speaking, is it really more difficult for families with disabled children? The short answer to this is yes. This is mainly due to the fact that many items need to be specialised – the 'bog-standard' versions simply won’t be fit for purpose, and specialised items can cost significantly more. The specifics are obviously dependent on the disability in question, but many parents can expect to face several expenses on: Special dietary requirements Specialised equipment and toys Some items and equipment costs may never have occurred to you as requiring modifications, but for some disabled children, specialised versions of the same item are absolutely essential for their safety and usage.  These are not lifestyle costs, but basic costs for the same living standards. Here’s a quote from a dad that had to shell out a lot of extra cash so that his child could have a similar experience to other kids: “Our current battle is trying to get a bicycle for our young son, a disabled 11-year-old. My older son’s bikes have never cost more than £50 and have generally been second hand. Getting Isaac, our disabled lad, a bike is a very different ball game. The cheapest we have found is £800 because he needs two wheels at the back, a waist cradle and harness to support him, and it needs to be a tag-along bike so my husband can pull him with his bike. So, Isaac can’t have a bike, because we can’t afford it. It just makes me mad that things are so much more expensive when you have a child who has disabilities. He longs for a bike and to be able to join in!” For many parents in similar situations, this is on top of other expenses too, including additional care needs, additional heating, clothing and laundry needs, and travel to appointments [1]. Unfortunately for some parents, financial strains don’t stop there. Parents are often entitled to financial support through the government, but because the word ‘disability’ is a large umbrella term for many circumstances and needs, the process for getting support is not always straightforward. Many parents with disabled children aren’t sure of exactly what they qualify for. This uncertainty will just add to the frustrations felt by many. This extra financial pressure can impact the family as a whole, but also the relationship on parenting couples. But why does financial stress specifically impact the relationship so much? Here's a few of the main reasons: Couples may never have faced the strain before, so they are not experienced with handling disagreements on the subject. The main provider can feel an increased sense of pressure to earn more. Feelings of guilt can fester and this can be quite negative for the relationship. Expectations of 'family life' might be different to what new parents had imagined, which can result in feeling somewhat disenchanted. This feeling can cause some to withdraw from their partners and the people around them. When families are ‘comfortable’ financially, it usually means they have freedom and options. In a relationship or family where you’re limited by finance, it can feel like you’re restricted or trapped. These feelings can really affect your behaviour towards one another. How can we help our relationship thrive through financial stress? 1. By talking to each other As a couple, one of the most useful things you can do is to get some clarity on your wants, needs, hopes and fears. Anticipating potential problems can give you more realistic expectations about the future, and allow you to find a more relaxed way to discuss problems together. [1] Set some ground rules about what you will do next time an argument breaks out. You may want to decide to take a break from the conversation and return to it when you’re both feeling a bit calmer. Try saying something like “Can we talk about this in a different way once we’ve calmed down a bit?” Although this may be a given, try to avoid having these discussions in a supermarket, the bank or other public places where the money pressures are suddenly most apparent. You’ll have a much better chance of getting a positive outcome if your conversations take place privately in your own home. Be honest with yourselves and kind to each other and you’ll significantly improve the chances of talking about money without an argument. 2. By taking practical steps For many couples who are struggling with financial strains, the idea of money planning goes out the window. For some, their focus goes into simply surviving and putting food on the table. But even if money is very tight and there’s little or no chance of saving, money planning can still help you. A budget is still a sensible idea – even if it only helps you realise how much extra help you need. You can find a free planner through Money Advice Service, along with a few really helpful online guides. It may be useful to keep a spending log over a month or two to see what you’re really spending. When you can see the whole picture, you’re in a better position to make decisions about which costs are essential and where you might be able to cut costs. Remember to really consider all of your extra expenses like those in the table above. If you’ve got some friends who’ve been through something similar or adopted a child with a disability, it might be an idea to ask them for guidance. Your midwife or doctor may also be able to offer recommendations. Use the people around you and don’t be afraid of reaching out. 3. By seeking out entitlements Benefits and financial support can be a tricky field to navigate as they are liable to change over time, and as we’ve already mentioned, it will depend on your family circumstances and your child’s disability. For more advice on benefits, tax credits and other sources of financial help, visit Contact’s help page. Also, check out the current situation through services such as the Citizens Advice and the Money Advice Service, who will be able to talk through your budget and help you learn what you might be entitled to.  While financial pressure can be quite heavy, the relationship and family can still grow and develop. If money were no object, of course building up your relationship and family would be easier, but the most important thing is to function as a unit, and face the challenges together. Reference [1] Pancer, S. M., Pratt, M., Hunsberger, B. & Gallant, M. Thinking ahead: Complexity of expectations and the transition to parenthood. J. Pers.68, 253–279 (2000). [2] Contact (2014), Counting the Costs.
Article | parenting, disability, finance
7 min read
We've lost our quality time as a couple
New babies are very demanding of parents in the beginning, and babies with a disability can be even more so. Depending on the disability, parents may be required to spend extra time and energy trying to help them and nurture them. All this time spent helping your baby obviously couldn’t be put to better use and, in many cases, there’s nothing that can be done about it. But you may find yourselves being so busy that you’re not getting much quality time together, which can in turn have a negative impact on the relationship quality.Estimates suggest that more than half a million children in England alone have a disability [1], so lots of parents across the country are also facing this extra strain.  Why might we have less quality time? This is largely a practical matter - if you’re really busy looking after your baby and supporting them through a disability, then that’s just the way it is. But sometimes there are other reasons that quality time together gets lost. Consider if any of these apply to you: A large part of quality time is talking through the things that matter. But during more difficult times, such as being told that you’re going to have a child that has a disability, some people use keeping busy as a coping mechanism, and the conversation might feel just too difficult to have. For some, this news can be really hard to process, and you or your partner may be experiencing a certain degree of denial. Rather than face the problem and discuss your fears and expectations for the child and family life, you might instead be busying yourself away with other tasks. You and your partner may have had certain expectations in mind when it came to starting and raising a family of your own. When you discovered your child will be born with a disability, this perhaps changed some of those expectations. This internal struggle of expectation versus reality might affect you emotionally, which could in turn affect how you interact with your partner. Children quite rightly become the priorities of their parents. And when a child has a disability or vulnerability, they often warrant even more focus and attention. While this is the heart of any good parent, it can sometimes cause their relationship to descend down the list of priorities. In other words, the quality of the couple’s relationship becomes less important. How can I help myself and my partner? You and your partner might find it difficult to discuss how your baby’s disability or health complication might negatively affect your family dynamic and how you will work together to support them. By burying the issue, tiptoeing around it, or even pretending it isn’t there, you’re at risk of leaving yourselves unprepared. It takes courage to talk about the issues that frighten us, so maybe try writing down what you’re feeling first and reading it to your partner.  As things progress, try to have regular discussions and start making preparations together.The existing research on couples raising a child with additional needs says that: “Couples caring for a disabled child are at greater risk of marital problems and divorce.” While this relates to married couples, it’s likely of course that the findings also relate to those in long-term relationships. It simply serves  to show that any extra challenges to your lives as parents will challenge your relationship too, and therefore it’s important to value your couple time, even if, day-to-day, it doesn’t take priority over your child’s needs.If you and your partner are talking about the difficulties you will face, you are more likely to have realistic expectations and be able to deal with difficult situations when they come up [2]. For this reason it’s really important for parents to work on talking openly and positively about their fears and expectations [3]. References  [1] Glenn, F. (2007). Growing together, or drifting apart. London: One Plus One. [2] Pancer, S. M., Pratt, M., Hunsberger, B. & Gallant, M. Thinking ahead: Complexity of expectations and the transition to parenthood. J. Pers.68, 253–279 (2000). [3] Stamp, G. H. The appropriation of the parental role through communication during the transition to parenthood. Commun. Monogr.61, 89–112 (1994). [4] Shapiro, A. F., & Gottman, J. M. (2005). Effects on marriage of a psycho-communicative-educational intervention with couples undergoing the transition to parenthood, evaluation at 1-year post intervention. The Journal of Family Communication, 5(1), 1-24.
Article | disability, parenting together, communication
4 min read
Relationship problems with a disabled child
What is going on? Every couple will face challenges in their relationship long before a baby comes onto the scene. Whether it’s trust issues, repetitive household arguments, in-law grievances, or one feeling unvalued by the other, all couples fall out about something from time to time. When a baby arrives, these relationship issues and challenges do not disappear. On the contrary, they sometimes become harder to deal with.  Why might this be happening? Whether you’re the mum or the dad, the transition to parenthood is a time of increased stress for many, if not most, parents [1] – this has been affirmed by decades of research. The stress of parenthood can be exacerbated and intensified if your child has a disability, or if their additional needs require more of your time, patience and attention. It's not easy to compartmentalise stress in one aspect of your life, and it's likely that this stress will spill over into other areas, including your relationship. On a very practical note, a lack of sleep – a state almost guaranteed for a new parent – is enough to disrupt the equilibrium of life and increase stress all by itself. “Despite some parents describing their ability to normalize constant sleep interruptions, the sleep deprivation experienced by parents of children with complex needs is both relentless and draining.” (McCann et al) How can I improve things? If you and your partner know and anticipate the kind of difficulties you will face, you are more likely to have realistic expectations and be able to deal with difficult situations when they come up [3]. For this reason it’s really important for parents-to-be to work on talking openly and positively about their fears and expectations of their child’s disability or additional needs – even if it feels like you’re weighing too much on the negatives [4]. If you know what your biggest worries are as a couple, you can work together to support one another. While you are both adjusting to your new roles and circumstances, it’s also important to take care not to lose sight of your individuality. Perhaps it’s worth drawing on family and friends to help you take some time for yourselves to visit your hobbies or just listen to silence. It’s not selfish to do that, and it’s likely that your support networks will understand the importance of you having downtime. Equally, spending quality time with your partner is an important reminder that you are still a couple as well as parents. References [1] Shapiro, A. F. & Gottman, J. M. Effects on Marriage of a Psycho-Communicative-Educational Intervention With Couples Undergoing the Transition to Parenthood, Evaluation at 1-Year Post Intervention. J. Fam. Commun.5, 1–24 (2005). [2] McCann, Damhnat, Rosalind Bull, and Tania Winzenberg. (2015) Sleep Deprivation in Parents Caring for Children With Complex Needs at Home A Mixed Methods Systematic Review. Journal of Family Nursing 21(1), 86–118. [3] Pancer, S. M., Pratt, M., Hunsberger, B. & Gallant, M. Thinking ahead: Complexity of expectations and the transition to parenthood. J. Pers.68, 253–279 (2000). [4] Stamp, G. H. The appropriation of the parental role through communication during the transition to parenthood. Commun. Monogr.61, 89–112 (1994).
Article | disability, parenting
2 min read
Tiredness and disabled children
What is happening? When couples become parents, they wave goodbye to their seven-hour sleep cycles, and accept that it’s a normal part of early parenting. When you have a baby with additional needs, sometimes it means being even more sleep deprived. Babies with complex needs might struggle more with feeding and resting, or they may require extra diligence from their parents throughout the night. Couples undergoing sleep deprivation might find it harder to talk to each other, and find that their relationship struggles under these conditions [1].  Why is a lack of sleep affecting us so much? Sleep deprivation is not to be underestimated. Just getting through the day can feel like an episode of The Crystal Maze and your communication with your partner can really suffer [1], even with generous pots of coffee on the go. For some parents it can be a draining and relentless experience. In one study, the majority of the parents who had a child with additional needs reported feeling: Tired during the day (87%). Tired when they woke up (77%). Too tired to do the things they like to do (63%). Too tired to finish household tasks (73%). [1] If you’re finding it difficult to function as a parent, a partner and a person, you’re not alone. What’s more, studies have shown us that couples in their first year of parenthood generally see a 40-67% drop in relationship quality. So, even without the extra challenges, parenthood tends to put a significant strain on the relationship. How do we help with this? When you’re both busy and exhausted, you may feel that you’re not fulfilling one another’s needs or demonstrating your love to each other. If that is the case, it can be tempting to put your relationship on hold until life gets less hectic, especially if you’re an ‘all or nothing’ kind of person. But, in times like this, it might be an idea to focus on small gestures like a note on the fridge, sending a text, or running a bath for when your partner gets home. Placing value on these small things can sometimes have a stabilising effect that helps you through the tougher time periods. Because tiredness and fatigue limits what you can fit into your day, you might have to change or reset your expectations of one another. For example, if you both agreed to a household chore routine before the baby came, there’s a good chance you now won’t be able to maintain the level of cleaning that you did before. Or during your conversations together, maybe there was an expectation on one another for undivided listening and attention. It’s worth talking with your partner about what expectations you have of one another, and which of those expectations you would both like to change. You might think that your expectations would automatically adjust, but sometimes it’s hard to let go of habits and routines. Research has shown that if your expectations are more realistic, you are better able to deal with difficult situations when they come up [3]. References  [1] UK – Questionnaire of 2,312 parent carers (incl. mothers, fathers & grandparents) of child with disability. Hock, Robert M., Tina M. Timm, and Julie L. Ramisch. (2012) Parenting Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Crucible for Couple Relationships. Child & Family Social Work, 17(4), 406–15. [2] Caicedo, Carmen. (2014) Families With Special Needs Children: Family Health, Functioning, and Care Burden. Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association 20(6), 398–407. [3] Pancer, S. M., Pratt, M., Hunsberger, B. & Gallant, M. Thinking ahead: Complexity of expectations and the transition to parenthood. J. Pers.68, 253–279 (2000).
Article | disability, parenting
3 min read
Coming to terms with having a disabled child
What is happening? If you’ve just found out that your child has a disability that may affect them temporarily or perhaps more permanently, it can be quite a bombshell. This knowledge will undoubtedly be upsetting, and coming to terms with it might also put strain on your relationship. Why is this affecting our relationship? 1. Support When you learn that your child has a disability, you need as much support as you can get from professionals, friends and your wider family network. It’s that support which takes a bit of strain off the family unit, so if this support isn't in place, the frustration and the challenges can affect you, both as individuals, and as a couple. 2. Feeling redundant One of the overriding feelings in this situation is powerlessness, particularly during the pregnancy phase. Sometimes there’s little or nothing you can really do to help your child. This feeling can be quite overwhelming, and although the sentiment of wanting to help comes from a good place, it can actually cause parents to withdraw. 3. Coming to terms with reality You may both be struggling to come to terms with the situation, which is perfectly normal and understandable. It’s difficult to talk about and you may need some time to come around to the way things are now, but if you’ve not discussed the diagnosis and its potential impact, neither you nor your partner will be granted the opportunity to voice your concerns for the future of your child. Furthermore, you won’t have the opportunity to discuss the implications that raising a child with additional needs will have on your relationship. How can I help myself and my partner? 1. Support Talking to a doctor or even a specialist can be helpful. They should be able to provide you with more information on your child’s needs and refer you on to other organisations for further support. There are more than half a million children in England alone living with a mild to seriously disabling condition or chronic illness [1], so don’t assume that you’re alone or that support is unavailable. External organisations can be helpful. Contact can put you in touch with a number of local groups that support parents of children with additional needs. 2. Feeling redundant The difficulty here is recognising what you can control, and accepting what you can’t. Understanding this might well help to limit your frustrations and allow you to focus on what you can actually do – for both your baby and your partner. If it helps you, write a list with two columns – one for what you can help with and one for what you can’t – and talk the list through with your partner. That way, they'll know what you’re trying to accomplish and can support you in it. They may also point out where you’re putting too many expectations on yourself. 3. Coming to terms with reality Although it’s a basic sentiment, establishing an open, honest and supportive way of communicating with one another is really important as a way of strengthening that ‘togetherness’ that you’re both going to need. If, in your past relationships, you’ve had the habit of sweeping issues under the carpet, this might be especially difficult for you. Now is probably a good time to buck that trend. Again, it may be worth a visit to www.contact.org.uk who will be able to provide you with support options. References [1] Glenn (2007) UK Glenn, F. (2007). Growing together, or drifting apart. London: One Plus One.
Article | disability, parenting
3 min read
“Drastic behaviour change”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   Me and my boyfriend have known each other for quite a number of years and we developed a really deep bond with each other and nothing made me happier than being with him and I could easily see it was the same for him. Coming to the present time, he says he still loves me but I feel not even last in his life, I feel non-existent. I have mentioned to him countless times that he doesn't make time for me anymore and I just keep getting excuses about him wanting to spend time with his family, or with God which is understandable but everytime I bring it up it never ends well. Eventually I got sick of complaining so I decided not to tell him and I just backed off from his life occasionally messaging him every other day and keeping myself occupied. Two weeks later he tells me he's really been wanting to talk to me and he missed me but apart from that, nothing seems different. He doesn't seem joyful or excited like he used too. And he still doesn't seem interested in making time for me unless I mention not messaging and he says 'if you want too'. I don't understand why he's so distant, he's not really loving and caring like he used to be, he's not very talkative anymore and I'm just completely puzzled as to what made this change in him which seems to be a permanent change. Is there something I can do to help him get back to his old self? I've tried speaking to him but he can't see the difference or understands what I mean and I don't want it to end in a dispute again. I just can't understand why these days he always puts me for last and the times I tell him I'm last he says that's not true. I don't know what happened but also he believes strongly in God. Whatever he thinks God tells him, he'll change to please him but if I tell him something it's like I may as well not even bother because it goes it one ear and comes out the other. I feel really hurt because I know that's not how a relationship should be and I know how we used to be compared to now.
Ask the community | communication, arguments, religion
“Culture clash in first relationship”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   Hi everyone, I am 19 years old and am in a four month relationship with a guy who I met online on a dating site. I had never been in a relationship before and felt like I was missing something, and even though I'm only 19, I am mature and don't "get along"with many guys my age, we are on just different levels mentally.. My boyfriend is 24 years old, but age here is not the problem. He is here on a tourist visa and didn't even know he wanted to stay here until he met me..he always tells me I am the main reason he is staying here. Even though it’s sweet and all, this does make me feel guilty, since if something were to happen to the relationship, like the guilt would be all on me. Another thing is the culture difference…he acts very different in public, since he is foreign (Israeli) to be exact, and sometimes I just feel like it wouldn’t work out because we are so different. I also feel like I went with my initial feelings and fell too deep into this relationship since he is technically temporarily here and my feelings can also be compromised. I am torn apart sometimes and people tell me he may just be using me for documents…I am not naive and know this can always be a possibility, but we have talked about it and so far he hasn’t done or said anything to make me feel like he is using me. I am not planning on getting married to him any time soon. To me it looks like he really loves me, but I also know this can all be a show and I can be blinded by it. He treats me good, always takes me places, gives me gifts, we talk every day and see each other often. The only thing is he always likes girls pictures on instagram and follows these inappropriate pages…I don’t know what to even tell him regarding this. I think its annoying but this is just another problem. So I know I listed a bunch of problems with this guy, but what drew me to him is the fact that we can have interesting conversations and he seems sensitive, he is different from the guys I am used to being around and I like it. But honestly I feel so torn in this relationship, like I'm wasting both of our time and nothing will come of it and he will hate me for wasting his time in the end. At the same time I am afraid of losing him, because he really is a sweet guy who gives me attention I’ve never had before (perhaps this is another reason I'm attracted to him)???? I know it sounds selfish (the attention part), but I do have other feelings for him. I am just a mess of emotions right now, any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!
Ask the community | long distance
Normal issues are amplified in pregnancy
Since finding out you’re pregnant, you might have noticed that issues you’ve always been able to cope with are much harder to deal with now. You might be arguing with your partner more than usual or getting stressed out more easily. Becoming parents   Your relationship is going through a big transition – where you used to just be a couple, you’re now becoming parents. This transition is a time of increased stress for most parents and it’s one of the most significant changes you’ll ever have to deal with [1]. Even if your baby was planned, you’ve got a lot to get your heads around. Parenting is a lifelong commitment, with new responsibilities and huge demands on your time, money, and other areas of your lives. As your pregnancy progresses, the realities of your new roles can become daunting and may lead to more worry. When you’re about to become parents, you might reflect on your own childhood and your experiences of being parented. While it can be healthy to learn from the past, any difficult memories may have an effect on your emotional wellbeing. All of this can cause previously mundane issues to become far more significant [2]. Managing expectations   If you and your partner know and anticipate the kinds of difficulties you will face, you are more likely to have realistic expectations. This can mean you’re better able to deal with difficult situations when they come up [3]. Talk openly and positively about your fears and expectations, and make use of the support and information on offer. If you’re aware of your biggest worries as a couple, you can work together to prepare solutions in advance. Although your sense of identity might be shifting, you don’t have to lose sight of who you were before. Taking time for yourself to keep in touch with friends and maintain hobbies can help remind you that, even though your life is changing, you can still be the same person you always were. Equally, spending quality time with your partner is an important reminder that, as well as being expectant parents, you are still a couple too.  References   [1] Shapiro, A. F. & Gottman, J. M. Effects on Marriage of a Psycho-Communicative-Educational Intervention With Couples Undergoing the Transition to Parenthood, Evaluation at 1-Year Post Intervention. J. Fam. Commun.5, 1–24 (2005). [2] Claxton, A. & Perry-Jenkins, M. No Fun Anymore: Leisure and Marital Quality Across the Transition to Parenthood. J. Marriage Fam.70, 28–43 (2008). [3] Pancer, S. M., Pratt, M., Hunsberger, B. & Gallant, M. Thinking ahead: Complexity of expectations and the transition to parenthood. J. Pers.68, 253–279 (2000).
Article | pregnancy, parenting
2 min read
Parents, technology and relationships
For new parents, technology is great for keeping in touch – texting your partner during the day, facetiming with your baby, or catching up with friends you no longer have time to see. Smartphones and social media have broken down many communication barriers but they’ve also thrown a few new stones on the path. Learning to navigate this territory can help protect you against the risks that an overreliance on technology can put on your relationship. Work-life balance Technology makes it easier for your partner to get in touch with you at work, but also for your colleagues to get in touch with you when you’re at home. This blurring of the lines between work and family can be stressful, making you feel like you have to deal with work matters at home, or family matters at work [1]. Phones and intimacy One study showed that simply having mobiles in the house can get in the way of couples developing intimacy and trust, even on an unconscious level. You don’t know it’s happening, but the presence of your phone in your pocket, or on the counter, or on the bedside table, can create a barrier to the trust and intimacy you might otherwise be building up [2]. Talking through text It’s easy for meanings and nuances to be lost in the written word – especially when you’re firing off messages in the middle of a busy day. Words can take on new meanings when presented without tone of voice. A hurried response can be taken as a lack of consideration. Even a cheeky emoji can be read wrong. Over the course of a day, this can build up into a big heap of mixed messages and unnecessary resentment, bleeding over into the way you talk to each other at home [3] and leading to unnecessary bickering. The following tips can help make sure technology plays a healthier role in your lives: Agree some ground rules. Decide what constitutes acceptable internet and phone use. You might want to agree on some designated phone-free time for catching up, or just plan to switch off after a certain hour. Whatever you decide, make sure it works for both of you. Avoid assumptions. If your partner texts or emails something that feels like a dig or a rejection, clarify it before you leap to a reaction. Pay attention. When your partner is talking about something important, put your screen away and give them your full attention. Save your news. If you’ve got something important to share, wait and do it face to face. That way, you won’t miss out on all the benefits of your partner’s reaction. Switch off at bedtime. Make your bedroom a temple of sleep (and sex too, if you have time). Turn your phone off, or leave it out of the bedroom. Buy an old-fashioned alarm clock and don’t check your messages until you’re up and about. Switch off on date nights. If you’ve set up a time to share together, turn off your phone and concentrate on enjoying each other’s company. Leave social media out of arguments. If you’re arguing with your partner, don’t drop in that a friend on Facebook agrees with you. Keep your private conversations private. Be understanding. Try to understand what your partner finds so valuable about their online life. They may be receiving important support and advice from a forum or a WhatsApp group. Understanding this can help you make peace with the time they spend online. Talk about your feelings. If you feel neglected, say something. People often don't realise the impact of their behaviour, so a little nudge can be helpful to start the conversation. Remember to focus on your feelings, and not on your partner’s behaviour! Set an example. As a parent, you may be trying to limit your children’s screen time. Lead by example, and take your own eyes off the screen a bit more often. Your children are learning from you about how to have positive, healthy relationships – let them see you interacting in real life too.    References   [1] Chesley, N. (2005). Blurring Boundaries? Linking Technology Use, Spillover, Individual Distress, and Family Satisfaction. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67: 1237–1248. [2] Przybylski, A. K., & Weinstein, N. (2012). Can you connect with me now? How the presence of mobile communication technology influences face-to-face conversation quality? Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 30(3), 237–246. [3] Hertlein, K., & Stevenson, A. (2010). The Seven “As” Contributing to Internet-Related Intimacy Problems: A Literature Review. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 4(1), article 3. Retrieved from https://cyberpsychology.eu/article/view/4230/3273
Article | parenting together, communication
4 min read
Pregnant and worried about your relationship
If your partner didn’t respond well to the news of your pregnancy, or if he seems reluctant to make plans for the baby, you may wonder how he will cope with the pressures of fatherhood. When you’re pregnant and worrying about the future, it’s not uncommon to worry that your relationship will suffer. You might be afraid that your partner is going to disengage – or worse, that he might panic and run off! It’s important to remind yourself that your fears don’t necessarily reflect reality, and this may not be how your partner feels. But it’s also worth examining these fears to see where they come from. If your partner doesn’t want to talk about the baby Generally speaking, men are slower than women to come to terms with the reality of having a baby, especially if the pregnancy wasn’t planned. If your partner is struggling to come to terms with the idea of being a dad, it may be difficult for him to have long conversations about the baby. An overload of baby-focused talk could lead him to switch off. Try to be patient – he may just need a little more time to get his head around it. It might be helpful to vary the topics of conversation and remind your partner that some aspects of your lives are going to remain the same when the baby arrives. Encourage your partner to focus on the positive role he’s going to play. Even if he’s scared about becoming a dad, he won’t necessarily communicate his fears to you. Talk to him about your own hopes and worries, and then leave a space open for him to talk about how he feels. He may be pulling away because he’s not sure he is up to the task of parenthood. He may also be afraid that he will be sidelined, or that you will love the baby more than him. Not everything will change, and it may be helpful to tell him that. If you’ve faced rejection or abandonment before If you’ve faced issues in your past where someone important has left or abandoned you, you might be more sensitive to the idea that it will happen again. Your fears could be triggered by things like your partner walking off during an argument, not showing up for dinner, or being impossible to get hold of for some time. Let your partner know that this is a real worry for you – you may find he becomes more reassuring and more careful about how he communicates with you. Sometimes it’s helpful to remind your partner of how your past experiences can affect you. If your relationship feels unstable If your relationship has been going through difficulties, the idea of bringing a child into the mix can feel like a recipe for disaster. However, there’s no such thing as a perfect relationship and very few people would say they are constantly happy when they start a family. Having children will undoubtedly place some stress on the relationship, but it can also be a powerful bonding experiences. It might be a little more difficult when you have extra family responsibilities but, whatever stage you’re at, you can always work on improving your relationship as a couple. Let the arrival of your baby motivate you to be better together.
Article | pregnancy, parenting together
3 min read
Improving your emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognise your own feelings and choose how you respond to them. This can allow you to take better control of the way you think and behave [1] and improve your communication skills by helping you to read other people’s emotions better [2]. Why emotional intelligence is good for your relationship Couples with strong emotional intelligence are more likely to be satisfied with their relationships [3]. The more aware you and your partner are of your own emotions, the easier it becomes to see things from each other’s points of view. This can help you feel closer, support each other better, and understand each other more [4]. Developing your emotional intelligence will help you communicate and resolve arguments more effectively. When you have a good understanding of how emotions work, you’ll find it easier to step back from a difficult conversation, examine the options, and look for ways to work towards a resolution [5]. How to improve your emotional intelligence The following tips can help you work on your emotional intelligence, allowing you to take charge of your emotions and improve your communication skills. Learn to recognise your emotions  Developing your emotional intelligence starts with self-examination. Notice how you feel, particularly in times of stress or high emotion. Do you get angry easily, or sulk when you don’t get your way? What about other emotions – what does it feel like when you’re happy, confused, or bored? Check in with yourself from time to time and notice the way you experience different feelings. Without judgement, describe to yourself what you’re thinking and feeling. Notice the physical sensations as well as the thoughts in your head. Is your heart rate up or down? Is your mind racing or still? Are your muscles tense or relaxed? Look behind your emotions Once you’re comfortable with the process of recognising your emotions, start to delve a little deeper and think about why you feel the way you feel. Is it because of what’s happening now, or are there other factors influencing you – perhaps something from the past, or an external factor like a work deadline or a lack of sleep? Check in on your emotions a few times a day, whether you feel good, bad or neutral. As you become more aware of the triggers that lead to certain emotions, you’ll find you can anticipate them, and even regulate them. This is an important step in learning to stay calm under pressure and composed during an argument. Reflect on your behaviour Your thoughts and actions are intrinsically linked to your feelings. As you learn more about your feelings, expand your attention to notice how they affect your behaviour. Do you lash out when you’re angry? Do you leap to the defensive when you’re feeling hurt? Do you get single-minded when you’re under pressure? Remember that the ways you respond to different situations are the product of years of life experience. Try to observe your behaviour without judging it – this will make it easier for you to give yourself an honest account of what’s happening. Notice the links between your emotions, thoughts and actions, and see if you spot any familiar patterns. Take responsibility Once you’re able to recognise the way you respond to your feelings, you can start to take more responsibility for your choices. Try to catch yourself before you react negatively to something, and see if you can make a different decision. This could be as simple as asking someone to clarify their meaning before you respond, or taking a break from something that’s irritating you. The more you practise this, the more you can start to choose how you respond to difficult situations and conversations. Work on your empathy skills Understanding your own emotions will start to give you an insight into others’ emotions too. Being emotionally intelligent will not make you a mind reader, but it will give you a level of insight and understanding that can make you a much better communicator. The next time you are facing difficult feelings, try a quick check-in. Ask yourself: How am I feeling? What am I thinking? How is that making me behave?  You can’t stop yourself from feeling bad, but you can learn to make different choices when you do. References   [1] Coleman, Andrew (2008). A Dictionary of Psychology (3 ed.). Oxford University Press. [2] Mayer, John D (2008). Human Abilities: Emotional Intelligence. Annual Review of Psychology. 59: 507–536.  [3] Brackett, M., Warner, R., & Bosco, J. (2005). Emotional intelligence and relationship quality among couples. Personal Relationships, 12(2), 197-212.  [4] Schröder-Abé, M., & Schütz, A. (2011). Walking in each other's shoes: Perspective taking mediates effects of emotional intelligence on relationship quality. European Journal of Personality, 25(2), 155-169.  [5] Zeidner, M., & Kloda, I. (2013). Emotional intelligence (EI), conflict resolution patterns, and relationship satisfaction: Actor and partner effects revisited. Personality And Individual Differences, 54(2), 278-283.
Article | communication, mental health
4 min read
Getting dads involved with their babies
Most new dads are aware of the responsibilities that are coming their way well before the baby is born. But, unfortunately, not all of them step up to the plate when the times comes. If your baby’s dad isn’t helping out, three things can happen: The baby can miss out on vital care. Your partner can miss opportunities to bond with the baby. You might feel let down and resentful. Your partner might assume that his role is to provide for the family, and not necessarily to offer care [1]. By putting food on the table, and clothes on backs, he may feel that his job is done, leaving the nurturing side of things to you. If his parents followed a similar family structure, he may be influenced by his own upbringing. The support that parents offer each other is at its strongest during birth, and then steadily drops for both mothers and fathers. Fatigue and tiredness probably have a part to play in this, and it’s quite likely that this time will not accurately represent the supportiveness that you normally show each other in your relationship. Most couples return to their standard level of supportiveness within a year of the baby being born [2].   Boosting the bond   If your partner has embraced the provider role and not the carer role, it might be helpful for him to try and bond more with your baby. If he bonds with the child early on, he’s more likely to develop a stronger attachment, which can encourage him to play more of his caring role. Try to provide regular opportunities for him to bond – feeding times, going for walks, and skin-to-skin contact are all great ways to support this. The more the father engages himself during the delivery and postnatal period, the stronger will be his attachment to the baby [1]. It might be worth having a conversation with your partner and asking him how he sees his role. Be sensitive in your approach – he may not feel he’s neglecting the caring aspect of fatherhood, or he may feel that you don’t appreciate how hard he works to be the provider. Lead with how you feel and how it appears to you, rather than throw any accusations. Use “I feel” more than “You make me feel”. Ask him about his expectations of fatherhood: What did he expect it to be like? Is it what he imagined? What could you do to make him feel more involved? Does he feel like he’s connecting with the baby? Explore these questions together and see if you can start to find some solutions together. References   [1] Plantin, L., Olukoya, A. and Ny, P. (2011) Positive Health Outcomes of Fathers’ Involvment in Pregnancy and Childbirth Paternal Support: A Scope Study Literature Review. Fathering: A Journal of Theory, Research, and Practice about Men as Fathers, 9(1), 87–102. [2] Howard, K. and Brooks-Gunn, J. (2009) Relationship Supportiveness During the Transition to Parenting Among Married and Unmarried Parents. Parenting, 9(1–2), 123–42.
Article | fathers, parenting, new parents
2 min read
Dealing with debt problems
What does money mean to you? We all have different dreams about what we would do if we had lots of it, but we also have different plans about how we would cope if it were to run out. Couples who talk openly about money tend to cope better in tough times, and yet far too many of us keep quiet about our finances. Exaggerating our money management skills and hiding debts from partners are common issues. Your money or your wife? Relationship problems and money problems are directly linked. When you’re struggling with money, you might argue more, have less time together, or feel that things are unfair – particularly if one partner built up the debt without the other knowing [1]. Often, when one partner goes through financial troubles, it’s the other partner who starts to feel less satisfied with the relationship [2]. You can counter these negative effects by talking things through and working together to resolve the debt. In one study, couples who consciously worked together were better at maintaining their relationship through difficult financial periods. These couples made the decision to see their money problems as separate from the relationship, focusing on the importance of communicating well and working together [3]. Aside from overspending, one of the biggest money problems relationships face is appointing one partner to manage all the household finances while the other takes a back seat [4]. While this might seem simpler, it can often increase stress in relationships, creating an extra burden for the person in control [5], and leaving the other person in the dark. The couples who have the most success at dealing with their issues are those who recognise the need for trust and communication around financial matters. When you can trust each other to pay bills on time, discuss big purchases, and avoid overspending, you’re likely to feel more confident in your finances and in your relationship [3]. If you’re worried about debt, be open with your partner. Seek emotional support as well as practical help – research has shown that emotional support like relationship counselling can help people cope better with financial problems [6]. Relationship counselling, in combination with practical debt management, can help you develop your communication skills and build trust in a structured environment.  Talk about money Having regular conversations about money with your partner might be one of the best things you can do for your relationship. Check in a couple of times a year or even once a month. Try to understand and respect each other’s perspectives – you don’t have to have the same money habits, but learning to accept your differences could mean you’ll cope better as a couple if things get tricky in the future [4]. Learning to discuss money with your partner will help you on the road to financial peace [4]. Talk about your long-term financial goals – how much you want to save, big things you want to spend money on, and any issues you might run into. Don’t minimise your problems and don’t boast about how well you manage your finances – particularly if you’re flying by the seat of your pants. Make sure you have the difficult conversations as well as the easy ones. If you’ve been hiding debt from your partner, or if you suspect your partner has been hiding debt from you, have a look at our debt and relationships section. How to manage debts If you’ve gotten into debt, set goals as to how you are going to manage it and work together to carry them out. You may need to make some sacrifices – working more, spending less, or both – so talk about how you are going to handle any lifestyle changes. A clear budget is especially valuable when finances are tight. Set yourself a programme of essentials, alongside optional spending, and review it regularly together. Keep talking. It’s important to have a regular dialogue about money – not just about what has gone wrong, but also about how you will work together to manage your finances. Be open and transparent in conversations about money. Support each other. This could be practical, like paying bills, writing a budget, or making phone calls to creditors; or emotional, like helping each other feel better about the situation. Recognise that you and your partner may have different spending habits and money management styles. Talk about how you will manage your savings and big purchases. Make sure your plans take account of each other’s money preferences – you may want to allow for occasional impulse buys, while also setting aside some savings for the future. If you are in debt, and don’t know how to manage it, speak to a debt management agency. There are many free services available where you can get help with your debts, including tips on which ones to prioritise, and how to set up manageable repayment plans. The most important thing is to support each other and work together to come to solutions. Offer your support wholly and without resentment. Don’t minimise your partner’s concerns and don’t act like you’re above it all. Whether it was your fault or not, you’re a part of it now, and engaging in the solution is the best thing you can do to help get your partner, and yourself, out of the woods [6]. For more information on debt and relationships, see our debt animations and guidance articles. References [1] Dew, J. (2008). Debt Change and Marital Satisfaction Change in Recently Married Couples. Family Relations, 57: 60–71. [2] Karademas, E. C., and Roussi, P. (2016). Financial strain, dyadic coping, relationship satisfaction, and psychological distress: A dyadic mediation study in Greek couples. Stress and Health, 1-10. [3] Skogrand, L., Johnson, A.C., Horrocks, A.M., DeFrain, J. (2011). Financial Management Practices of Couples with Great Marriages. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 32: 27. [4] Doherty, H. F. (2006). Communication is vital to a couple's successful financial life. Dental Economics, 96(11), 92-93. [5] Rowlingston, K. & Joseph, R. (2009). Assets and Debts Within Couples: Ownership and Decision-Making. Friends Provident Foundation. [6] Falconier, M. K., & Epstein, N. B. (2011). Couples Experiencing Financial Strain: What We Know and What We Can Do. Family Relations, 60(3), 303-317.
Article | debt, communication
5 min read
How can I deal with jealousy?
Jealousy can be a strange and powerful feeling. It’s closely linked to self-esteem [1] and may reflect how confident you feel in your relationship [2]. The more confident you are that your partner is committed to you, the less you’ll worry about them leaving you. If you’re not secure in the relationship, then it may not take much to set off your jealous feelings.  Jealousy itself won’t necessarily do your relationship any harm [2], but acting on jealous feelings can be very destructive [3]. Left unchecked, jealously can lead to behaviour that you might not be proud of – seeking constant reassurance, making accusations, becoming possessive, and even threatening to break up [4]. The following tips can help you boost your self-esteem, increase your confidence, and start to deal with your jealousy. Accept the jealousy The next time you feel jealous, remember that it’s just a feeling and you don’t have to act on it. This might not be easy – if your usual responses have become ingrained over the years, it might take you a few goes to change things. Breathe slowly, and notice the thoughts and feelings you are experiencing. You may feel angry or anxious – that’s OK. Just accept that it’s happening and give yourself a chance to reflect before you act. Talk to your partner When difficult feelings come up, it’s usually easier to deal with them straight away [5]. Talk to your partner and try to focus on describing your own feelings, rather than their behaviour. Let go of blame, and explain to your partner that you sometimes get upset or worried about losing them. Be clear that you’re not asking them to change anything, but that you’re trying to deal with some unpleasant feelings. Listen Give your partner a chance to respond. You may find it helpful to ask what would be the best way for you to talk about similar feelings in the future, so you can build up your own way of communicating about your feelings as a couple. Tackle negative thinking Like other forms of worry, jealousy can lead you to focus on the negative, and misinterpret your partner’s behaviour. Remember that your jealous thoughts don’t necessarily reflect reality – you may think your partner is interested in someone else, but that doesn’t make it true. Take some time to reflect on the deeper feelings behind your jealousy. If you are truly afraid of losing your partner, ask yourself why your confidence has been rocked, and what you can do about it. Tackle your assumptions Sometimes when we have low self-esteem, we can read meaning into things that have nothing to do with us. If we’re feeling down, we might see someone yawn and assume it’s because they find us boring when, really, they might just be tired. The same can happen in your relationship. When something happens that makes you feel jealous, ask yourself what else might be going on. Sometimes people dress up to feel more confident amongst their peers, and not to attract a new partner! Develop your communication skills You can improve your confidence in the relationship by working on your communication skills with your partner. Make a habit of praising each other, planning fun experiences together, and being on the lookout for positive behaviour from each other. Over time, this can help boost your self-esteem and strengthen your relationship. Accept uncertainty You can never know for sure that your partner won’t leave you. It’s instinctive to want to protect yourself from the fear of rejection, but uncertainty is a part of life and a part of every relationship. When you accept this, it can give you a new sense of freedom to stop worrying about what your relationship might become, and get back to enjoying what it is. References [1] DeSteno, D., Valdesolo, P., Bartlett, M. Y. (2006). Jealousy and the Threatened Self: Getting to the Heart of the Green-Eyed Monster. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91 (4), pp.626-641. [2] Sheets, L.V., Fredendall, L.L., & Claypool, H. M. (1997). Jealousy Evocation, Partner Reassurance, and Relationship Stability: An Exploration of the Potential Benefits of Jealousy. Evolution and Human Behavior, 18 (6), 387-402. [3] White, G.L., & Mullen, P.E. (1989). Jealousy: Theory, Research, and Clinical Strategies. Guildford, New York. [4] Carson, C. L., & Cupach, W. R. (2000). Fueling the flames of the green eyed monster: The role of ruminative thought in reaction to romantic jealousy. Western Journal of Communication, 64, 308–329.  [5] Theiss, J. A. and Solomon, D. H. (2006). Coupling Longitudinal Data and Multilevel Modeling to Examine the Antecedents and Consequences of Jealousy Experiences in Romantic Relationships: A Test of the Relational Turbulence Model. Human Communication Research, 32: 469–503.
Article | jealousy, trust
4 min read
Trusting each other with the baby
Most parents usually feel an innate sense of responsibility to protect their babies, but sometimes mums take the lead in this department, leaving dads worrying that they’re not as capable. This can kick off a vicious cycle where dads don’t feel confident with the baby and mums feel like they have to do everything. If this goes on for a long time, it can create a lasting sense of tension, so it’s important to try and address it early on. The vicious cycle   This conflict between mums and dads is quite common. It can start during pregnancy when mums have a very real experience of protecting the baby, and making sure it has everything it needs. Because of this, mums often – but not always – already have a close bond by the time the baby is born. If breastfeeding, this bond can be deepened even further. For dads, the bond usually take longer to develop. Dads have to take time to get to know their babies and develop a sense of their roles as they adjust to the new responsibility. This doesn’t undermine all the effort and support that dads put in during pregnancy – providing comfort and encouragement, singing to the baby, attending pre-natal classes, – but it can leave them feeling like they’re on the back foot. In the majority of parent couples, women are the primary caregivers, meaning they spend the most time at home with the baby: 76 per cent of women and 56 per cent of men state that in reality, women have the responsibility of primary caregiver [1]. Whichever of you spends the most time at home is likely to get to know the baby better sooner and be better at responding to what the baby needs. If, as in the majority of families, that’s the mum, then it may feel quite natural for her to take the lead, especially if she’s had more practice with tasks like changing nappies and is able to get them done more efficiently. This can often mean that the other parent, usually the dad, doesn’t have as many opportunities to care for the baby, and might need longer to develop these essential parenting skills. The dad can start to feel less confident, which can lead him to avoid parenting tasks, and the mum can start to trust him less, and just do everything herself. As these factors start to feed into each other, the cycle begins. Developing trust as parents   The first thing to do is acknowledge it to each other. Try to avoid making any accusations or blaming each other and instead talk about it from your own perspectives, starting your sentences with “I feel”, rather than “You make me feel”.  Even if you’re annoyed and wound up, try to keep the resentment out of your conversation, and focus on finding solutions together. To make sure you’re more equally involved, you’re going to need to make an active decision to trust each other. Although one of you may be the primary carer in the most practical sense, you can still share most parenting responsibilities. You both deserve opportunities to bond with your baby and you’re both capable of delivering the best care. To back that up, here’s a snippet from an extensive study on mums and dads as caregivers: Both men and women seem to be equally competent caregivers and exhibit high degrees of similarity as caregivers [2]. If one of you is struggling with certain tasks, like changing nappies or putting the baby to bed, then ask the other for a demonstration – don’t just give up and fall back into the patterns you’ve developed so far. The entire family will benefit from having both of you skilled up. The more a father engages himself during the delivery and postnatal period, the stronger his attachment to the baby [3]. As with anything in life, it’s easy to lose confidence in the face of criticism. It can take a few goes to get these things right, particularly in front of someone who already does it well. Being a new parent can be a scary time, certainly in the beginning, but by trusting and encouraging each other, you can help you build this confidence together as a couple. References   [1] EHRC (2009) Research Report 15 - Work and Care: A Study of Modern Parents. Retrieved from: http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/publication/research-report-15-work-and-care-a-study-of-modern-parents [2] Kovner Kline, K. and Bradford Wilcox, W. (2014) IAV | Report: Mother Bodies, Father Bodies: How Parenthood Changes Us from the Inside Out, p. 25 [3] Litton Fox, G., Bruce, C. and Combs-Orme, T. (2000) Parenting Expectations and Concerns of Fathers and Mothers of Newborn Infants. Family Relations, 49(2), 123–31.
Article | parenting, trust, baby
4 min read
Managing parenting styles after separation
When parents separate and emotions are running high, it can be hard to find common ground, but the parenting relationship continues long after the couple relationships ends. You and your ex-partner will have to find a way to make it work, even if you have different parenting styles. Parenting styles    Parenting styles are not set in stone, but you might recognise bits of yourself or your ex in one of these: Authoritarian. Authoritarian parenting is a very strict style, with rules that aren’t to be questioned by children. It can be effective in the short term but may be damaging to children’s confidence and self-esteem [1]. Permissive. Permissive parenting has very few rules and parents tend to take on more of a friendship role. Children raised without clear boundaries sometimes struggle to cope with stress when they get older [2]. Authoritative. Authoritative parenting is more balanced. Rules and guidelines are explained to children, and balanced with warmth and caring. Children with this type of background tend to be more confident and socially responsible, and better at making decisions for themselves [1]. Parents whose styles differ can find it hard to reach agreements, even when they are together. If you’ve separated from your child’s other parent, it may seem impossible. But, if you work together, you’ll find you can reach compromises and ensure that your child’s best interests are prioritised [3]. Parenting after separation When parents split up, one of the biggest risks to children’s wellbeing comes from the increased conflict they witness. Having a positive relationship with your ex can minimise this risk [3], so it’s important to try and share parenting in a collaborative way. There are bound to be some disagreements but you can protect your children by making sure you don’t argue in front of them or put them in the middle of your conflict.  Don’t ask your children to spy on your ex. Don’t make them responsible for sharing information about living arrangements or money. Don’t use time spent with one parent or the other as a punishment or reward. Don’t lean on your children for emotional support when you are sad or angry about your separation. Don’t try to convince your children that you are right and your ex is wrong.  Work things out with your ex. Talk about what each of you feels is best for the children – not for yourselves – and agree to make compromises. Find common parenting ground A parenting plan can help you sort out the practical arrangements. The free template at Splitting Up? Put Kids First allows you to come up with agreements and compromises online so you can review each other’s suggestions without having to get together face to face. There are some specific communication skills that can help you get on better with your ex-partner and get through the conversations that you need to have. The course Getting it Right for Children, can help you with these skills: Staying calm. Active listening. Seeing things from different perspectives. Speaking for yourself. Sticking to the rules. Negotiating solutions. Working things out, and trying the solutions you have agreed. The course is free and may help you to and your ex find solutions that make life easier for your children as they adjust to their new circumstances. Parents who have taken this course showed improvements in the following areas: Talking to their ex-partners about childcare. Keeping conflict away from children. Staying out of court. Keeping calm with ex-partners. Seeing things from each other’s points of view. Agreeing on childcare solutions [4]. These tools can help you get through the initial transition or a difficult period later on. Your parenting styles and your children’s needs will naturally develop over the course of time, so it’s always useful to be able to communicate well and reach compromises.  When disagreements arise, keep talking. When your styles clash again, look for common ground. Keep practising and remember: no matter how you and your ex-partner might feel about each other, the best solutions are the ones that work for your children. References [1] Baumrind, D. (1991). The Influence of Parenting Style on Adolescent Competence and Substance Use. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 11(1), 56–95. [2] Benson, M. J., Buehler, C., & Gerard, J. M. (2008). Interparental Hostility and Early Adolescent Problem Behavior: Spillover via Maternal Acceptance, Harshness, Inconsistency, and Intrusiveness. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 28(3), 428–454. [3] Chen, M. and Johnston, C. (2012). Interparent Childrearing Disagreement, but not Dissimilarity, Predicts Child Problems after Controlling for Parenting Effectiveness. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 41 (2), 189-201. [4] Getting it Right for Children When Parents Part: https://click.clickrelationships.org/content/parenting-apart/course-getting-it-right-for-children/
Article | parenting apart, parenting styles, co-parenting
4 min read
“My ex and contact with our daughter”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   A bit of the back story... My ex and i were together for 3 years when i got pregnant with our daughter, she was planned i was 36 and she is my first child my ex has 10 year old twins from a previous relationship who he sees every weekend, admittedly it was me that wanted our daughter when my ex and i discussed trying for a baby he admitted he wasnt as excited as me about the idea but said he would have one more child with me. Once i had my daughter i was immediately quite shocked at how little he actually helped me with her, she was quite a difficult baby she had colic reflux and milk allergy so didn't sleep a lot at first, my ex had a 2 week paternity leave then had to go back to work so i didnt expect him to do alot as he was working and i was on maternity leave however wen he did have our daughter on a night for an hour or so it was astho he was doing me a favour? Even saying to me if i asked for a little more help 'but i work!' Things got progressively worse after that i did every single night feed myself even at weekends when he was off not once did he offer to do it, i admit i became resentful esp when i got no help with housework and when the twins came on a weekend i also had them to look after too with no help from him, things came to a head resulting in him telling me he didnt feel the same about me anymore and we split, i moved back to my parents with my 10 month old daughter. Since the split my ex has stayed in contact and picks up my daughter mainly when i have to work however i went back to work part time so this in effect only adds up to approx 11 hours per week that he has her, several times hes let me down and hasnt picked het up only letting me no last minute, he refuses to have her over night too, ive bitten my tongue for a long time because i dont want anything to impact on my daughter who does love her dad and he is good with her when he has her but his lack of interest n letting her down has brought things to a head and last night we had a huge arguement (not infront of my daughter) i told him how i felt and gave him a few home truths which did not go down well so he brought our daughter home early and is now refusing to have her until i 'stop hasseling him' im at a loss what to do next all i want is for him to take more of an interest in our daughter.
Ask the community | separation, contact
“Boyfriend travelled to meet his ex”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   Hi, My boyfriend and I have been in a long distance relationship for about two years now. We have been friends for over three years as we were in the same college. We were seeing other people before we started dating. He is super insecure and we have had multiple disagreements and arguments over me being in touch with my guy friends. He, however, is super social and has many female friends in his inner friends' circle. He is in touch with all his exes and although I am not super happy about it, I don't mind either. Recently, he travelled to another city for some work(as he says but i am highly suspicious about) and chose to stay at his ex's place. I wasn't happy by the idea and told him upfront that i would be hurt if he stays with her. He still chose to stay at her place and hardly contacted me all the while (just two messages and no calls in three days). I don't even know if his ex is aware of his relationship with me. He says he loves me and he is very loyal and did nothing wrong, but somehow I am not convinced. I feel insulted and de-valued. What am I supposed to do? Am I overthinking?
Ask the community | ex-partner, jealousy
“My boyfriend's religion vs me”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   Hi everyone, I have been going through a lot of arguments lately with my boyfriend and I think I have finally come to the root of the problem. I will describe the situation a little bit so you get a better understanding of it. We met quite a few years back and everything was truly perfect, at that time I thought wholeheartedly that this guy was perfect in every single way. He was very loving, caring, thoughtful etc. What stood out to me most was back then, if we did happen to have a disagreement, he'd talk to me instantly, console me, comfort me and put in effort of trying to make me feel better and everything was fine. OR there were times that if something got a little heated, he'd leave but not too long after he'd come back and just try making things right because he didn't want them to linger on. And that was something I truly admired in him. Fast forward to today, those things don't exist anymore. Last year He accepted God in his life and so far he has been trying to do everything to please God. So I don't know if it's because he misunderstands what the Bible says or what but these days when we have an argument, he leaves, lets it linger on for weeks and weeks, is unwilling to communicate about the issue etc. For a very long time I couldn't understand why the change, why he wasn't his old self when it came to fixing things but now ignores them. At first he told me it's because it's so frequent we argue that he doesn't want to be burnt out by it but yesterday I think I came to the actual reason. He was quoting parts of the Bible, ' Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.' He believes when we argue it's pointless but if it's an argument to do with God it's worth having. When I explained to him that I feel like I can't come to him because if I'm upset and I need to get it out and tell him he was already saying that was a quarrel and he didn't want anything more to do with it. It's very hurtful not knowing that he's there emotionally anymore and stirs up more anger in me as well but all he sees is that I'm angry and I need to discard it. How do I make him understand that he's supposed to be caring when times are tough. He needs to push through his emotions too and talk about things because running from them makes it worse. I have told him all this before but it's like he just keeps forgetting which results in me being constantly hurt and mad. I need him to understand that my emotions aren't considered 'a useless quarrel'. I love him and he says the same but since he has come to know God I can't understand why in some ways he has gotten worse.
Ask the community | communication, arguments, religion
“Ghosted after four years together”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   My boyfriend and I have been together for 3.5 years. We are from the same city in the U.S. and about two years ago, he moved to Nigeria for a work assignment. We made it work because he visited four or five times a year. Last summer, it was my turn to go abroad. I was offered a unique experience to do humanitarian work in East Africa. It was only a temporary contract, but I went because of the rich experience I would surely gain. I took a risk to come, quitting my job, leaving friends and a place I called home for so long. My boyfriend was supportive of this endeavor. He said many times he was proud of me. We continued to talk every day, and he was extra attentive because he was in my shoes of moving halfway around the world not too long ago. So, we were finally on the same continent again. In February, we finally met in South Africa. It was our first time seeing each other since I had left the U.S. in July. The catch was that it was only for two days. We both had busy schedules and decided to give it a try anyway and meet up even for a few hours. The first day was very nice. It's always nice when you reunite. We went to the spa together and had lunch and dinner together while walking around Johannesburg. We had nice moments. At the dawn of the second day, I could already feel the pressure mounting, the feeling that time was not on our side. On the contrary, my boyfriend has always been the type of person who believes they have all the time in the world. So, he woke up early and left me for a few hours to play golf. That was ok with me. I had supported his love of the game and had also grown up on a golf course myself. I had learned upon his return that the subsequent plans of the day were to go shopping. I was to leave later that night. It was the fact that he didn't have anything special planned that bothered me. I grew upset. To me, he was throwing away a day, prioritizing everything else (his hobbies and chores) and not wanting to spend quality time with me. To him, we were an old couple and he expected that we'd be doing more mundane things together. I got so angry to the point that I refused to shop with him, choosing to stay at the hotel, because after all I came to see him not to go shopping. We fought. He said nothing makes me happy. He suggested I needed to work on me for a while and not be so focused on our relationship, not be so obsessed with it. We both know we've worked hard especially with the distance to make things work. I cried. We didn't part angrily. We actually mended things, or so I thought. We kissed each other goodbye. In the following few days, we exchanged the usual texts to see how each other's days were going, etc. I thought we dodged a bullet and avoided a break. On the fourth day, he just stopped communicating. I didn't know what was going on. At first I was calm about it, telling him that if this is a break we're taking, he can take the time he needs to clear his head. He never responded to any of my texts. There were many days where I felt so bogged down with sadness, but I didn't let it affect my work. I certainly had enough going on around me to be distracted. I don't feel I let my work suffer because of what was going on in my personal life. I was actually pretty good at keeping it private, but that came at the expense of suffering in silence and bottling up so that I spent many nights at home crying. I hadn't told anyone about what happened. Days turned into weeks and into months. We had never gone this long without communicating. We had a brief break right before he moved to Nigeria since he was unsure of the long distance, and it lasted for a month. This time, it's been four months. Waaaay too long. Not a peep from him. The man who was my best friend and confidant was gone. Actually, I didn't know what happened to him. Were we officially broken up? I was in the the dark. If it was a breakup, there was no closure, no definite green light to go ahead with my life. What was worse was that it seemed he abandoned me. This has been the most trying time of my life... being thousands of miles away from home, living in incredibly frustrating circumstances, and having to face big challenges everyday... and he wasn't there. I continued to text him even though I wouldn't get answers. I breathed a sigh of relief knowing he didn't block me. I made up excuses for him. Maybe he was giving us time to work on ourselves. He had a job search to think about with the upcoming return to the U.S. coming up in September and the whole idea of moving again. Maybe he was dealing with his kid's issues. He definitely was busy and didn't have time to deal with the standards I set for this relationship. At the three month mark, I started to become angrier. I went from thinking he just needed space to thinking he GHOSTED me. How could he leave without saying a word after almost four years together? More negative feelings began to take over. In my mind, he had already made up his and wasn't going to come back. Perhaps he had already moved on to the next woman, even with three months left in his assignment. I sent him angry texts accusing him of abandonment and being callous. At the same time, I made pleas, saying what I wanted from him. I said I only wanted to be closer to him and be more of a priority. I have spent the last few days feeling empty, feeling like my life has no direction. The life I dreamt with him would be left unrealized. At the same time, I have been pushing my stubborn self to let go. If he doesn't have the decency to communicate and if he is aware of the suffering he's putting you through, why put up with it? Giving the benefit of the doubt is why I'm still here. I don't have closure. I don't really know what happened. My contract is also up in August. I am now navigating my next steps. It can be a scary experience, feeling like you're free-floating with no direction in life. It's incredibly lonely here at this post, far from home and from friends and family. His presence would make things a lot better, but I know the burden is on my shoulders and no one else's.
Ask the community | dating
“Is this just a crush?”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   Hey guys. SO. I have never asked a community like this about stuff, but I feel like I'm at the end of my rope or road or whatever. Before I met my current partner I had never been in a "real bf/gf relationship". In fact, I was still hurting badly from a guy I fell for 3 yrs ago who told me if I moved states we could date...Then I moved states and surprise, he ignored me to my breaking point. I have finally just within the past month gotten completely over him. Anyway, my first ever bf moved in with me a month after dating me bc my female roommate told me she wanted him and if I dated him she would abandon the lease. So she abandoned the lease dramatically and he moved in with me. He is 3 yrs younger than me and we used to fight a lot over things that have never been an issue to the other guys I have known--and several times he and I got physical and left bruises on each other. But, we always made up for it and always told each other we only fought bc we care so much not like the other guys who would have just ignored the "issues". Most of it was my stress to keep the apartment bc I was working more than him and he had a very part time job.... Fast forward and we are both making a much better wage and are living in a different apartment. We don't fight as much BUT this is where I need advice!! (Finally!) To give you a picture of my life, I used to be really dark and sad and then I got involved with light workers and spent a lotta time outside and meditating and since I am a singer and writer I sort of bloomed past all the darkness...I love seeing people living their dream and I love health, which you can often see in someone's eyes. Well my bf is very dark. He makes me watch horror movies (which i really don't like but i am trying to get past it) and he is a funeral directing intern, plus he hates sunlight. So he will never be out there sunning with me or swimming, which makes my lil heart sad. He is not a bad guy tho, he has a huge heart for his family and for me and is constantly spending money on me, so don't assume he's mean or something. The point is, we actually went to a farmers market and my lower wisdom tooth was hurting like hell bc it's erupting so he noticed a CBD booth that was selling capsules. He asked the guy selling if they would help tooth pain while I was smelling all the CBD soaps--they were amazing and I was so fascinated by them I didn't even look up and see the guy who was at the booth till my bf mentioned me and I was in so much pain I could hardly even smile. But what struck me right away was when I did look up, all I saw was a hazel ocean of light and depth and so many good auras that even tho I am typically a shy person I maintained eye contact. My eyes are heterochromic, one blue one hazel, so I may have been striking him the same way. But anyway, is this just a crush? I do love hazel eyes, and my bf has brown eyes so is it just stupid. Oh and then he mentioned his male roommate had tooth pain which didn't get helped by cannabis and then my bf and I walked away and I mentioned to him I would pay for cbd salve for his back bc he has scoliosis. He insisted he would pay for it himself so he did and I wandered around the market half in a daze and half in incredible tooth pain. It was a small market and as I walked down the center with my dog the CBD guy was looking at us. I purposefully didn't look back, because i am crushed inside....My bf knew from the start I didn't want a relationship but honestly he was so kind and sweet to me that I felt it would be unfair to live and share life with someone in such close quarters without letting them claim me. But the week leading up to this event has been filled with me wanting to tell him I feel like something is missing. He wants to buy a camper in 9months and live out of it with me and just travel and work odd jobs, I wonder if even if I never see the hazel eyed CBD guy again, maybe it is all connected and I should just keep my job as a dental assistant and not live out of a trailer with my bf in 9 months?? I really don't want to quit my job but trailer life seems cool and we would travel a ton and have lots of adventures. I just am divided and also like I alluded to I am not in love with my bf, never have been just he has been so kind and he knows how to treat me during bdsm which no one else even had the creative capacity to try. But ok I will admit I wish we weren't in a relationship:( i will take any and all advice! --
Ask the community | sex, intimacy
“I've never met his children”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   My partner of two years has two children from a previous marriage. I am yet to meet his children but he has said in the past that he would like me to meet them. He has custody of his children every other weekend and has decided this is not enough so wants to have them every Monday after school, returning them to school on Tuesdays. He told me this and asked my opinion on this whilst we were out queuing to buy tickets at the cinema. I told him it would be good all around if they had extras days as a family and Monday seemed to be the best day as it would not interrupt their activities during the week. We proceeded to get our tickets but I could see that his mood changed. I did not say anything but had an inkling it had to do with his children as he often picks fights with me about his children I have never met. He would say I don’t show interest but I ask about and listen to what he tells me about them all the time. After the cinema walking to the car he said that when he asked about him having his children on a Monday (he told me but did not ask opinion,I gave as a normal response) that my tone was flat. I said I disagreed and if he wanted a more indepth conversation there is a time and place with no distractions. He then proceeded to ask if I have a problem with his children and asked what do I think of him having children. This question is asked again after two years???? We tend had a full on argument because I felt attacked for no real reason I don’t have children of my own. We don’t live together but spend a lot of time together, which I hope would be extended to his children spending time with us as a couple but also alone time with their father. It is now a running theme where always pick fights or speaks to me in a tone when the subject involves his children. I can’t seem to be left alone if he feels I have not responded in the way he perceives as the right way to respond when answering questions about his children. I am never negative towards them and I am wondering what life would be like if I did meet them if he acts the way he does. My partner did have a troubled childhood. One aspect is that he does not know his father. I am at a loss. Please advise.
User article | parenting
“Feeling unwanted”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   Hello everyone, my boyfriend and I have known each other for a very long time and all this while it's been a long distance relationship. Regardless of that, we still made it work. We used to be giving each other everything we could and through that we've developed such a deep bond and a great love for one another. However, I feel like the effort and expression of love on his part is lacking. And I don't think I'm right for telling him this especially because if he does start showing it I'd feel like it's not really coming from him but because of something I asked and he's just doing it to calm me down. Ironically, he just isn't the type of person that I've ever known to do something for me if I ask. For example, if I say can I see you tomorrow at 9am? The chances of that happening are close to zero and I'm so prepared to hear an excuse like 'sorry I was up all night playing games and I fell asleep late' or 'i just wanted to sleep in' or 'i'm just not motivated to wake up that early' but when it comes to his family, God or himself he makes a way when there is none. He even told me today he was up since 2am and he's been with his family and at 5am he messaged me and when he did, I didn't even have his full atttention. I don't know if I'm being needy or what but it really breaks my heart to know that I don't matter enough to the point where he's willing to make the time out for me when it's not convenient to him. I've been sacrificing so much and I don't think he rememebers how much I do but sometimes I feel like telling him I just want you to treat me the way you used too is going to make him think that I'm asking way too much of him. Usually he always makes me feel like I need to be more understanding but I just don't know what to do. I can't tell him and I can't keep it inside, but I just don't know what to do. Something else I would just like to emphasise on is the fact that I'm having trouble when it comes to God. I make sure to put God first in my life but I still make time for him and make sure that he doesn't feel left out or anything regardless of my tiredness but when he puts God first it's like I can't go to him for anything. I usually hear that if I have a problem, take it to God and not him. For God he'd sleep early the night before just to make sure he's early in church the next day and find the time to pray and read the Bible etc. But for me I just don't see it. I feel like I'm in competiton with God and everything else in his life and it just has me in an emotional mess. Do I need to do something or do I just need to get over it or what?
Ask the community | communication, arguments, long distance
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Short course: “Getting It Right for Children”
Do you know the best ways to stay calm and to make sure you listen as well as talk? Are you prepared to see things differently? Can you stop a discussion turning into an argument? When things get heated, most people struggle to keep their cool. Research shows that drawn-out disagreements between parents can make children feel stressed and unhappy, particularly when it’s obvious to them that something is going on.  What do I need to do? Making agreements can be hard. Sticking to them can be even harder! Practising communication and negotiation skills can help things go more smoothly, even if you and your child’s other parent have very different opinions and emotions are running high.  We've suggested a good place for you to start based on what you've told us already. In this section you can work on improving the way you communicate and negotiate. The skills you gain will help you work with your child's other parent to create and stick to your Parenting Plan. Most people find it helpful to go through the skills in order, so we'd recommend starting at the beginning, and going through the three sections in order: STOP TALK IT OUT WORK IT OUT The first step is usually to STOP arguing. This means staying calm, making sure you listen and being prepared to see things differently. The next step is to TALK IT OUT. Here, you will learn how to speak for yourself and the benefits of being clear and sticking to the rules.  The final step is to WORK IT OUT. This is where you bring it all together by looking at the best ways to negotiate when things are difficult.
Activity | course, GIRFC
10 items
“My boyfriend keeps me hidden”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   My boyfriend and I have been going out for three years (we are both 20). 80% of the time my friends and I hang out, he is always invited, either by me or my friends. We've gone out to countless dinners, concerts, parties, games and shopping trips and all with my friends. He's even been invited to my friend's house for dinner. However, till this day, his friends have never asked me to hang out with them and my boyfriend has only invited me to one party on his own. My friends are a mixed group of individuals, guys and girls. His excuse is his friends are all guys, but he knows for a fact I get along fine with guys and that is not an issue. He also says it's because they don't do things I can be invited to. But I think inviting me to dinner or bowling or the beach (which is all things has has blatantly said I can't come to) just once in a while won't hurt. I have also never met his family and they don't know we are dating and he says it's because they won't approve of him dating however he has been over to my house for dinner, thanksgiving and he has even come to New York with us. I wouldn't necessarily say he's "hiding" me from his friends because they know we are dating. It just feels like I put in a lot more effort to try to include him in my life and he tries to keep me away by using excuses. I've noticed all my girlfriends have great relationships with their boyfriend's friends, and they enjoy having her around too (obviously not all the time) and they're the ones who ask if she'd want to come along whenever things are planned. My friends do the same with my boyfriend.I want to get to know them better and I also don't want to be labeled as just "the girlfriend" but rather someone who they wouldn't mind making plans with. I just feel like I'm never given the chance. Am I asking for too much? Is it wrong to ask to be able to hang out with his guy friends once in a while?
Ask the community | family, commitment
“He takes everything personally”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   I've been having this issue since we first started becoming serious. I will say a little comment in conversation, not meaning it to be offensive, and he takes it that way and gets enraged. For instance, I was slightly insulted he didn't invite me to meet his daughter on the trip he is planning for her birthday. He didn't invite me or include me in the planning at all. We've been dating for over a year and I've never met her because she is a few states away. We live together and have even talked about marriage at some point. His daughter is a huge part of his life and I was hoping to become close to her eventually. I mentioned to him that I was insulted he didn't invite me on his trip to see her and he told me I would just be in the way and that this visit is a short one and not really my business. We argued. She is coming for Christmas and we can be introduced then. He is very defensive when it comes to her I've guessed. He was saying how much he missed her today and I casually said that I would've liked to become close with her, but that cant happen right now. He took it as a continuation of our previous argument and assumed I was dealing an underhanded comment. I didn't understand why he got so angry. I was stating a fact. I understand he doesn't want me to be involved, it's insulting and hurtful to me but I understand. Should I have said nothing? I feel like I have to watch myself because he takes everything as an attack. What should I do?
Ask the community | arguments, emotional abuse
“My wife will not speak to me”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   This is a real problem. I am at my wits end and I do not know what to do. I have been married for nearly three years and was with my wife nineteen years prior to that. We have had a fairly volatile relationship over the years and about six years ago the arguments had tipped over into unbelievable week-to-six-week silences with two episodes of physical abuse spread over a few years. My wife finally, out of desperation, was taken to the doctors by a friend and started taking mood stabilising pills. The results were astounding! The daily / weekly arguments stopped, when we did argue again it was fairly reasonable and things went back to normal fairly quickly so much so that after a few years we got married. A few months ago my wife decided to stop taking the pills without advice, and things started slipping. Last Sunday when my wife went to get sausages from the freezer and there weren't any she hit the roof! I was called a self centered man that only thought about myself, that she was sick of my inability to remember shopping we need and stormed off into her room and jammed the door shut. I was away the following day till this evening for work. I texted her three times and she did not reply, even when I said her friend was meeting me and she could talk to her. I got back home around an hour ago and she walked out of the bathroom, into her room and blocked her door shut without a word said to me. This is what she used to do in her really bad patch, before the pills, sometimes it would go on for, at the longest, six weeks. She has already told me she will not go back on the pills, so that's not a option. I promised myself years ago, before our relationship nearly ended, that I would never take the emotional and physical trauma again. Looking back I was self medicating with alcohol and food and was way up at nearly 17 stone and I was fast approaching type 2 diabetes. I managed to turn that around, started going to the gym and lost, and kept off, nearly four stone. I do not want to go back to that again, my body and mental health could not take it. I love my wife, but if she will not talk to me how can I sort this out? There has been over the last few months a slow slide toward unreasonable arguments and this is the worst it's got. I don't want my marriage to end and I'm desperately trying to think of how to sort this. Because I cannot take what I took years ago again. She will not talk to me, and when i suggested going to couple counselling she flat out refuses. Is my only option now separating and divorce?
User article | arguments, mental health, physical abuse
“She hates my hobby”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   I've been a part of a happy long-term relationship over the past 4-5 years, and we've been engaged for some of that. The relationship started when I moved to a new town, so I left a lot of my life behind, including a certain hobby. We're currently pretty settled, we have a few pets and live together in the same house. The 'hobby' has a reputation for being an expensive one, but I'd always been stingy with it and didn't spend anywhere near as much as others often do. Fast forward to about a year ago, as I started to feel more and more comfortable and settled I brought up the idea that I might pick the hobby back up again. The response I got was at best mixed, and the ensuing argument ended up with my partner saying how they just "hate" the hobby, citing the associated expense and the fact that I'd changed a lot since I last did it. Honestly I don't consider myself to have changed at all since I regained an interest (passion?) in the hobby. If there is a more fundamental or reason than that then it's never been mentioned. I feel like I don't understand the problem they see. These feelings seem to have been exacerbated by the fact that I'm now out-of-work, and while I wouldn't spend anything financially on the hobby given that fact, I receive responses like 'I'm not happy to be paying the rent if you're going to waste your time on [hobby]' if it is brought up again. As a result of them making me feel bad about it, I've essentially been committing time to the hobby in secret, while they're at work etc. I feel incredibly guilty for more-or-less lying to them like this, but I feel that I should have a right to pursue something that makes me happy and being secretive about it seems to make us both happy. Subsequent times when the hobby has just randomly come up in conversation, my fiancée has been extremely derogatory, but I didn't say anything other than nodding my head essentially, as I didn't want to re-open the issue even though this was making me feel pretty awful. For context, this hobby is a competitive card-game, which I already have my old stuff for didn't even require money to start in the first place. Essentially I have no idea what to do. If I'm frank and honest with them then I'm afraid it will all end, and I feel that we're so good together and settled. I feel like I don't want to have to cut out a thing that I really enjoy because of my partner's seemingly irrational hatred, since it would also cut off a significant portion of my friendships from where I first lived. I feel so guilty for how I'm acting because of this, and just want to have an honest relationship again, but I'm afraid that will never happen again with them. It feels like just cutting myself off from the hobby would fix everything, but it's a social hobby and I find it somewhat difficult to start friendships in other ways. Does anyone have any advice?
Ask the community | finance
“Confronting my stepchildren's mother”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   I have been in a relationship for one and a half years I am pregnant and due in July. My significant other has other children from other women (which I can handle). I have been battling with my emotions on a subject that has been haunting me for almost a year now. My hunny's ex-wife had been informed that there were bed bugs at her job the middle of last year, well i guess not thinking anything of it until her daughter (his daughter) was sleeping on the couch many months down the rd and woke up with bites all over her. Turns up she found out she had them. Not really taking any action to solve the problem, I found out and being the freak that I am about pests I tried to take every precaution that I could without saying hey well the kids cant come to the house (even though that's what I wanted to say) I didn't want to be considered the bad guy, but I also don't want the bugs at my home with my kids. Well needless to say i said how I felt numerous of times stating she needed to do something about it before it became out of hand and it spread(but nothing was really done) so now this woman has an infestation I have the bugs because of course the kids as well as her would come over to my house. I don't know how to react or what to do, I don't want my immediate family to get them. I have been spraying and reading on how to take care of the situation, but as soon as i feel like i have it somewhat under control i feel like they are just bringing more over!!!!!!! Help!!!!! Just some opinions, suggestions would be great. I have not reacted how deep down inside i would like to because i don't care for confrontation i have spoke out in a nice manner but obviously am being ignored by not only her but my boyfriend which is her ex-husband.
Ask the community | parenting, stepfamily
“Splitting costs unfairly”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   I know every or most marriages have money issues.We always split the bills down the middle which I feel is fair but 2 years ago after he paid for funeral expenses for his dad we stopped splitting so he could pay off his credit cards. Eventualy, he continued to use credit cards for whatever, food, vacations etc.. always his choice though. Anyway, he has 2 paid off now and I think we should start splitting again. I dont feel its been fair! He says they are our bills and that he pays more than i do but he doesnt i do and have been! Credit cards are his personal bill . Mortgage water electric cable should be split down the middle.. I dont think credit cards should be included in splitting but he thinks it should be counted as paying since he may have used it for house or on me. I did the calculations Since January (not incuding credit cards) and I dont include my cards. I pay the rent, cable, and cell phones (his cell phone too)! He pays electric, water, sewage, car insurance for three vehicles but pays for the vehicle i drive (two are his work trucks and I do drive his 2002 suv as he crashed my lexus into a tree 4 years ago). It's def going to cause an argument but it needs to be discussed. How do I make my point across to him that credit cards are a personal expense - his bill not our bill? He does by more food than I do but i do still buy some and i pay more. I haven't event included food in the totals. He keeps throwing that he paid $1200 in bills which he is including his credit cards Payments which he pays more than the scheduled or required amount due. Thanks in advance!!
Ask the community | finance, arguments
“Frequent arguments pushing us apart”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   Hi everyone, I've been asking questions about my relationship with my boyfriend. Recently we have been having very rough days together and this has been going on for about 2-3 weeks now. Every time we meet up we usually have an argument/ disagreement and if it cools down, it's only a matter of minutes before another one starts. We used to be completely happy together and arguments and disagreements were never really a thing for a long time but recently they have been coming up so frequently that it's just pushing us apart. We still love each other so we keep trying to come back and work things out but if we come to an agreement, something else happens so we're back to square one. We have both come to know God, he has only recently converted, about a year now, and I with quite a number of years in the faith. I help him and guide him as best as I can but something seems a little weird. Firstly, we know that whether we believe in God or not, love is very important. We must care and have compassion for others. Before he was with God, he had this quality where if I was feeling down he'd stay with me and talk to me and just be loving and caring until I felt a little better and everyday for a couple days he'd check up on me and see if I had improved or what and of course when someone makes you feel loved and like you matter to them it's like a healing in itself. But fast forward to today and he just says that if I'm down I need to go to God and tell Him everything, don't rely on him, 'he's just the support'. And frankly, I'm not sure he understands what support means anymore. I understand we take our troubles to God but didn't God also put people in our lives to be a physical support for us? Didn't God teach us to love one another and love each other as ourselves? Another thing I also had on my mind was when he said he loves me. When I was feeling down he said he loved me and although I just wanted to say 'how? you don't show it anymore. I feel like you love me just by word of mouth', I just said it's nice to hear that. He asked but what about God's love for me? I told him that it was different coming from a person and then questioned 'how?'. He was saying that there isn't a difference between hearing that you're loved and then knowing it but feeling it after, it's just a different approach. I don't understand what that meant but now it makes me wonder, does he even know about being in a relationship and loving a person? He said to me that only if God directs me to him then I can focus on him. And I understand he wants me to put God first but is he right or am I supposed to be able to talk to him as well? From my understanding God would want me to speak to him about my troubles so we could work on them together and we could overcome them but I just don't understand how to get through to him. He also said that he's not going to assume otherwise unless God tells him so which makes me feel really lonely and hurt that I'm just left like that with God alone and no support from him. I don't know if it's me or maybe my relationship with God or something else but I love him and when these things happen I feel physical pains in my heart, I sometimes hyperventilate and feel light headed, I feel pain in my head and there's a tightness and heaviness in my chest. He doesn't know about all the effects I get when he's like this with me apart from the pain in my head, tightness in my chest and on the rare occassion heart pains. I feel like fully explaining everything will cause another explosion with him. He'll just tell me go to God and don't tell him about it but he doesn't understand that the reason I get those effects is because of the lack of his care and love. I tend to take these issues on we have quite heavily and with the stress and hurt built up it's just overwheming and I get these effects. I'm sort of in a grey area when it comes to understanding what I should be getting from him and what I'm demanding too much off. Am I asking too much? Am I just too attached? He's been my first everything so anything negative really affects me when it comes to him because I love him with my all. I just feel like I'm in a pit with no way out, with no direction or anything. Also, can someone explain to me how is it possible that before he knew God he was very compassionate and caring and now that he tries to fully rely on God, he's gone so cold on me and I'm left feeling unwanted and neglected by him? For God he would do anything, he'd even cut out activites because it's taking away his time from God, but when I ask him to, I just need to have understanding. I'm feeling very low and alone right now so any positivity would be greatly appreciated. Can you please tell me what I should do or say to get through to him? I don't want to be harsh and I don't want to break up with him because in my heart I feel like he just needs an eye opener but I just don't have the words to do so. I just want him to know that he's hurting me and I need him to be the way he was.
Ask the community | communication, arguments
“I like someone I can’t have”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   I’ve been friends with this guy since our freshman year of high school. I think about him all the time and recently we’ve began seeing each other more because of our mutual friend group. I have the time of my life with him but I come home and toss myself into my bed of sadness because I’m left with such jumbled feelings. He looks at me in a sweet way, does everything to include me in the group activities (which his girlfriend is never involved in), finds ways to touch me or tease me like in chick flicks, and he calls me pretty. In no way shape or form am I capable of doing anything to hurt him and his girlfriends relationship. I’m not that type of person. It’s just so confusing to me because I don’t understand what this feeling is. When I look at him I see something so beautifully formed and it’s just so strange. I’m not used to feeling this way at all and it’s sad. We already have plans together next weekend with our friends and I’m just such a jumbled mess. I don’t plan to tell him how I feel because our relationship was a little strained for some time and I do not want things to be weird again. And plus it wouldn’t matter anyway. I’m not writing this for advice or tips on how to break him and his girlfriend up. I just want to help myself get it out in a way that’s good for everyone.
User article | unrequited
“Questioning everything about my wife”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   My wife recently drifted into an emotional semi-sexual relationship after 15 years of marriage. Out sex life has been nonexistent and even when it happens it wasn't all that fun. We grew complacent (mostly my fault) and she has started spending more time with girlfriends. There is one woman (who is married) that she has grown very close with and a couple weeks ago my wife told me that her friend would send joking/playful texts to her. Nothing earth shattering about that until she revealed that she liked it and that it was turning her in. She has never indicated any fantasy about a woman so that was shocking to me. She asked me how I felt about it and I admitted that it turned me on. She asked me if she could respond to these joking/sexy messaging and I said ok as long as I am in it with her and it can be used to enhance our sex life (which it has immensely). The texting has continued and ramped up in terms of its sexual graphic nature. My wife says that it’s only fantasy and that she could never see herself doing it, but I am concerned she’s not being honest about what she might do if the right situation/circumstances present themselves. The biggest issue (if that wasn’t it) is that the other woman is married and she is not sharing any of the exchanges with her husband which makes me uncomfortable. I tried suggesting that we work together to try and find another woman who is not a close friend (or married) to bring in to our relationship and she hesitated saying that she wasn’t so much attracted to women but this particular woman. Is that a red flag? Struggling to try and figure this out...
User article | communication, cheating, trust
“Do I need to let go?”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   I've been seeing a guy for over 6 years now...we met on a dating site, at the beginning he told me he had a friend who is female, i didnt think anything of it, i didnt see a lot of him because of his job, he works shifts and it clashed with my work on occasions, after seeing him for 3 months he went on holiday with his female friend, he told me it was booked for a while, again i was ok with it. when i asked to meet this friend he always made excuses, he also invited her to family do's and not me but again made excuses that she was a family friend. After one year passed we had our fair share of arguments about this friend, he again went away with her to the same place they went year before, i contacted her on fb to see what her relationship was with him...expecting her to say they were friends, she wanted to know who i was had i met his family! She saw herself as his partner, after another argument he denied they were a couple, he maintained they were friends, oh i found out they slept in the same bed when they go away but nothing happens, and ive asked her that and she has said they dont do anything but sleep, over the years hes continued to go away with her, when we argue he books to go away with her then blames me, she had to sell her house about 4 years ago and she moved in with this guy im seeing...ive been over and she has her own bedroom, i dont go over much very rarely he comes over to me more, ive met his family and recently went away for 5 days to his brothers with him, hes a fab guy when hes with me and we get on so well....but when he goes home it changes and he says it doesn't it me! Last year id had enough i finished it completely and met someone else he was devestated and pleaded with me to go back and he'd change even promised me we'd get engaged...i finished it with the other guy and went back....he went back on his word and all the promises he made, i even found out he'd been on 2 dating sites, he says he loves me and i believe he does, he went through a bad divorce his wife left him for someone else, and he says he finds it hard to trust...i love him but i just cant cope with his lies i dont know what hes up to when i dont see him, and with his work that can be 21 days before i see him Anyone got advice please?
User article | ex-partner, jealousy
“Travelling vs settling down”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   My boyfriend and I have been together for five years now. I have had my own house for two years, which he lives in and contributes a more than a fair share towards bills and food. We are both in our early 30’s. He wants to travel and I want to settle down. We have talked about selling my house and buying one together in 2019, as well as potentially starting a family. For years he has loosely talked about travel, but never seems to make any solid plans to achieve this goal. At one point (due to redundancy), I had said that I would consider travelling 1 month with him and then fly home, leaving him to complete his travels on his own or with whoever he pleases. This would be between being made redundant and starting a new job. I soon got cold feet and worried about paying my mortgage when he started changing his mind about which month to go. I thought this could turn into me being on hold waiting through his long decision making process and then the travel not actually happening. I also started to feel like travelling wasn’t for me and I was planning the month purely for him, and it was a big risk not lining up a job when there were no solid plans in place. A few months ago, he told me he was depressed and really unhappy in his job, so I encouraged him to do his travel alone and take a career break. He has considered taking his career in a different direction, so my opinion was that this would be the perfect time. He has spent the past three month researching travelling alone and put the feelers out to other companies he may wish to work for in future. He is now starting to get cold feet about going travelling in July and is considering holding off until January 19 as the weather is better in Vietnam. For me, I feel like this is another case of him being unable to commit to plans and actually make decisions. I feel as if my asks of him in a relationship are not important as moving out his travels overlaps with us buying a home together. My life feels like it is on hold for him, while he slowly ponders on how to go about his travels.
Ask the community | communication, trust
“He has no time for me”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   Just a question about my relationship with my boyfriend I have that's left me lost. I recently posted a question I had about him due to feeling distanced and feeling avoided by him but we worked that out and I told him I needed some time to cool off because what had happened was really driving me insane and was stressing and frustrating me too much. He agreed that I could leave to calm myself down but then when I came back he'd try making some time for me and making changes that we had spoken about. So now after two days of just keeping to myself trying to clear my mind, I see him online and I message him (and please bear in mind that this was 3am his time). Our conversation didn't last long, but I did have the belief that he'd be happy to see me but it turns out it didn't really matter too much. He was just playing games all night long. Now here's the thing: when we're on good terms and we spend time together and he has to do something he makes sure to leave exactly on the dot and he plans time in advance to be able to do those things, he organises well. But now that we haven't been together much lately he seems fine to just lose time and stay up all night just playing games as if that's the only thing he has to do. And please also keep in mind that after a couple days of no communication with him, I message around 3am his time and the conversation is so dry and only lasted a couple minutes and at the end he didn't even respond to say anything, he just ignored me and kept playing for another 2 hours until he decided to go offline and go to bed. He always has time for everything else except me and when I tell him that he tries to convince me and says no that's not true. I don't even know how to explain what I feel. Another thing that I should probably mention is that I helped him find God. He has been attending church regularly and he's truly engrossed by everything to do with God. He even tries reaching out to people as much as he can and spreading the word of God and I'm truly grateful that He does that. But sometimes when I think about that I wonder.. 'How does he attend church, read the Bible, pray, speak to memebers of the church, try his best to live for God and not understand that he's hurting people around him. How doesn't he understand that it's hurtful and kind of rude to just ignore someone? Is his games so much more important than me?' I know he'd say no but I feel sometimes that he loves me just by word of mouth because his actions speak differently to me at times. He can make time for his family, for errands, for friends, for anything. Just not for me. And if he does, I get a few minutes of conversation that he isn't even really into and just end up being ignored. For the time being, I'm just gonna leave him alone and let him come to his senses, I think I'm done with always having to remind him and being stuck in a loop of the same things. But is there any way I can approach him or do something to make him wake up? I'm so sick of having to always be on the receiving end of this and I just don't know what else to do to get through to him.
Ask the community | long distance, religion
“She abandoned me while I was sick”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   We have seriously dated four months. Neither serial daters. Both professed our deep love to each other. I will do anything for her and have done so. I'm all in. I am getting the impression that I love her more than she loves me. Case in point yesterday I awake sick but still have to get my kids out the door (single Dad). So here is our text conversation over the day. Anyone else see red flags in the caring and sacrifice areas? I can promise...a team of wild horses could not have kept me from caring for her however she wished. I'm hurt and confused. 6:17am I told you I awoke sick. Flu-like aches and sore throat.  10:36am You ask me if I want you to come over. 10:41am I say yes please come over 12:32pm You say that you need to get through a little bit more work (from home, flexible) 2:56  You say "Honey- I love you sooo much and I can't wait to you as soon as possible!" 3:24pm You asked me about my plans for tomorrow (Me thinking- I am getting the distinct impression you're not coming over but still you don't say this) 3:37pm I asked if you were coming over 3:39pm You say no that you have other plans (workout and weekly dinner/wine with friends) and don't have time now.
Ask the community | social media, parenting, stepfamily
“Four kids and no time left for each other”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   My wife and I have got four great kids together and last year we bought our very first house together (previously rented) which is a four-bed in need of total renovation. Since we got the keys I basically worked all day at my job and then went there until the early hours of the day until we moved in at the end of last year. My wife has always commented how we've not got anything in common for a while now and looking back at my interests I can agree that they differ from hers completely. She is one of six kids and although her family leave reasonably close, they never really help out with the kids as they either have kids of their own or they work full time/have other responsibilities. I'm an only child, I don't have a relationship with my Dad and my Mum is a professional musician so I don't see much of her but we do talk all the time so thats all good. Anyway, it was my daughters birthday last week and she wanted a garden party and as our garden was a mess, we decided to update it with some decking which yours truly did and this took up a lot of my time. On top of the house projects, we have a new puppy, which was supposed to be a family pet but has basically come down to me and my other daughter to look after. There are other things but to summarise them, my life is basically like this: With so many responsibilities, I only have Mon/Fri/Sat night free. Out of these three free nights, I've been working on the house be it inside or in the garden and i normally finish after 10pm each night. Oh yeah, and then I have to walk the dog! My wife on the other hand looks after everything else such as the cooking,cleaning, looking after the kids if i'm not there etc but her life is just as busy as mine albeit child-focused. I'm sure that when the house is all finished we'll have more time for each other but in the past year we've been out once together. I've lost touch with all my friends and she spends all her free time on facebook. She told me last night she wasn't happy with me and ended up storming off as I don't talk to her and she's lonely but from my point of view everything that takes up all my time like the decking, dance rehearsals, swimming and the dog were all sorted out by her and then she left it to me. for about 2 years she's also had minor medical niggles which have ranged from headaches, to ulcers, to tummy ache to foot ache etc and when I get home from work i hear about whats hurting her today. It's now got to the point when I don't want to talk to her as all I hear is complaining about everything. What do I do? I can't stretch myself any thinner and anything i'd consider talking to her about is either minor compared to her life or just not on common ground between us. It's hard to want to listen to someone that moans all the time about life but I don't want to break up as she's a good Mum to my kids and does a good job keeping on top of the house. We just don't click any more. Any suggestions?
Ask the community | parenting
What does a healthy relationship look like?
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   The million-dollar question: what does a healthy relationship look like? There are many perceptions to what is a healthy relationship, and of course, what works for one couple might not work for another. A healthy relationship requires work from both partners to help each other improve and grow within their partnership as well as growing as individuals. Here are ten signs that you are in a healthy relationship: Maintaining the love. For some, falling in love is hard and takes time while for others, falling in love happens within the few first dates. Whether it takes you longer or not, falling in love is easy. Maintaining that love and creating a long-term relationship is the hard part. Changing your expectations of what love is, is a vital aspect to being successful in your long-term relationship. In the beginning, love is all roses and becoming one, otherwise known as the honeymoon period. But, there will be inevitable changes in your relationship that will require you and your partner to climb many hills and mountains. If you can overcome the challenges that you have to face, it is a good sign that you are in a healthy relationship. Accepting the little mistakes. You get to a point with your partner where the little things slip your mind. Hanging out the washing, filling up the car or forgetting to pick up the chicken for tonight’s dinner. Healthy couples will accept that we all screw up sometimes and that it’s no big deal. On the flip side, if you think “they don’t care about me that’s why they forgot” or something similar, then it’s a sign that you still have some things to work on. Working as a team, not as competitors. Having a competitive attitude is a strong personality trait, but, keeping it outside of the relationship and acting more like teammates will make your relationship more sustainable. Having a bit of competition with each other in a fun way is perfectly normal, but sticking together on decisions and your future is a sign that you are able to get through the tougher times that you will experience. Throwing out the stubbornness and accepting responsibility. Like most people, I always wanted to be right during any small discussions or even the big arguments. I would fight my corner for as long as it took. But, as my relationship developed and as I grew as a person, I realised that being right or trying to shift blame is not always the most important outcome. Pointing the finger or blaming your partner is an unhealthy relationship method. Instead, talking about the problem whether it is financial, house related or something within the family, looking at both partners contribution to the issue is the more mature and honest thing to do. Sometimes, putting your hands up and accepting your part is a quicker solution than going around in circles with each other looking who’s to blame. Feeling secure. Jealousy is a natural feeling when you love someone so much. But, jealousy stems from being insecure within your relationship. Having that feeling of loyalty and trust takes time and again, hard work. But, when you no longer feel paranoid or insecure, you have reached the epitome of love. Both partners should make one another feel so loved that there is no reason for one of you to have suspicion or unfaithful thoughts. Again, it takes time, but working on it together will create a healthy relationship. Going out of your way for each other. Whether you have been dating for 3 weeks or 10 years, nice gestures and romantic surpises should never go a miss. Putting your partner as your priority and not feeling bitter about it is a huge sign that you are in it for the long run. No one ever gets tired of being spoilt by their partner, even by the small things such as cleaning the house, cooking dinner or taking the dogs out for a walk. It doesn’t always have to be expensive jewellery or a big bouquet of flowers every time. By having a natural feeling that the world is no longer just about you, but more so about the happiness of this other person who you are sharing life with, then you can count yourself as someone in a healthy relationship. Talking openly - even about the sore subjects. From money to desires, being able to talk honestly and openly is the key to a healthy relationship. If you can’t tell your partner your true feelings and aspirations, then who can you tell? Healthy couples are the ones who trust one another with deep thoughts, even if they can be upsetting. Allowing change and recognising that it is a good thing.Life changes every single day. Embracing these changes and allowing your partner to live life as both an individual and as one in your relationship is essential. Healthy couples recognise that the person they met years ago is not going to be that same person for the rest of their life. Allowing each other to grow as individuals and supporting each other’s life choices is an important part to your relationship. Encouraging each other to start new hobbies or search for a new career path shows that you have a strong interest in the wellbeing of your partner. Communicating any changes that come your way and allow change to take its course is a sign of true partnership. Recovering from the fighting. Does the perfect couple fight? Yes. Does a healthy couple argue or disagree? All the time. Painting the perfect and healthy relationship as one that doesn’t fight is far from reality. All couples fight and discuss, its natural and in fact, necessary. Knowing what pushes each other’s buttons or how to calm one another down is an important part to learning more about each other. Constant fighting is of course, not a good sign and perhaps a good time to think and communicate whether the relationship is working. But, arguing in a healthy relationship will be the type where you don’t have to be disrespectful or hurtful to one another. For example, resorting to name-calling will lead to no sort of true communication. Couples who love and understand each other won’t have to use this technique to get their point across. However, if the odd word slips up without you meaning it, then the other must understand the difference between fury and honesty. Your fears are reduced. The feeling of support and security can reduce your fears massively. Also, having someone you trust can push you to face these fears. From being able to go on the tallest rollercoaster knowing you can hold their hand or going back to university to pick up another degree. Having that persons love and support makes us individually better people. Facing fears together creates new experiences and opportunities. A healthy couple will know when to support you and when to give you that tiny push.
User article | communication
“Am I just being jealous?”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   Me and my girlfriend have been redoing our flower beds (taking out rock/putting in mulch) and a guy from work has picked up the rock we’ve taken out so far. However last night she said that he wanted to come by and get some more rock but we haven’t gotten around to finishing so there wasn’t any. He says that he can get it himself and my girlfriend said she felt obligated to help him. A couple things that concern me are that they get off work at 4am so it’s dark outside. Not sure how well you can dig up rock in the dark. It took me and her around 4 hrs to do the front on a Sunday as well. Also I asked why she felt obligated seeing as how the guy requested the rock and we didn’t have any ready. And it’s not as if he’s in dire need of it. He’s just using it to fill in a ditch supposedly. I’m not sure if I’m jealous or what but I’m not really cool with this. I see it as a project for me and her. I don’t want to look at it when it’s all done and think it took me, her, and some dude. I want it to be something we can be proud of together. Anyways If this is just jealousy I can accept that and be cool. If not what do you think I should do?
Ask the community | trust, jealousy
“I can't get through to him”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   Hi everyone, I have an interesting story but I would really appreciate any advice and light on this. I met my boyfriend online quite a number of years ago and we had our ups and downs just like every other normal couple. However, at the beginning even though things weren't perfect he really used to give me his time, his love, his attention etc. Even if he had to go out he'd most likely try avoiding it just to spend time with me and even though I felt a little bad that he was so focused on me, I felt really loved and touched and thought 'this guy truly loves me, he'd do anything for me'. We'd spend hours just lost in time talking the night away and over those years we've come a very very long way and have truly created a deep and wonderful bond. However, as the years rolled on I noticed slight changes in him. I have mentioned the issues I've had with him NUMEROUS amounts of times and he either gets upset that he leaves or somehow tries to make me understand that I'm wrong for thinking the way I do. For example, if we disagreed on something before, he'd talk to me about it and try making things right and we'd apologise and such but now I'm afraid to mention anything because of his reaction. He'd most likely just leave, burst out on me or just try telling me I'm wrong for thinking and feeling the way I do. But recently I noticed other changes in him so I questioned him. I told him that I felt like he was avoiding me and interestingly enough we sorted it out no problem. He agreed that we'd meet up a little later after he took a rest since he was tired so I decided to just do a few things while he was sleeping. But I ended up finding out that not too long after he woke up he just decided to go play games. He was never the kind of person to avoid me or forget to message me, he never liked being away but it seems like he's happier without my company. I've been in similar situations before and it's like it never ends, I'll bring up an issue and we'll talk about it but sooner or later it's back to how things were. It's taking a toll on me emotionally and mentally and even physically but I just can't seem to let go of him even if I wanted too. I love him totally, especially since we have been through so much together but when he does these things it affects my eating, sleeping and even focusing on daily tasks. I can understand that maybe he'd want some time to himself which is fine but he is well aware that I was waiting for him and he just decided to not show up. I don't know how to get through to him but the funny thing is that although things are like this, he still speaks about wanting to get married and planning a future with me etc. When we're together and we do get some time together and he gives me his attention, I really feel on top of the world and just so great but when he does something like this.. sometimes I just automatically find my heart racing and some other effects. I don't know...am I being crazy? over-reacting? insecure? I'm assuming you may suggest to try focusing on other things more important in life and such but I simply can't. This will be on my mind and will be a huge distraction which will prevent me from focusing on something else. I also know that it isn't healthy but I just feel completely lost and so saddened, all I want is for him to go back to the way that he used to be. Any advice on how to approach this would be so greatly appreciated and thank you for taking time out to assist me on this xx
Ask the community | communication, arguments
“Animosity between friends”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   My friend had told me to join a live, so I did as told thinking that "it'll be fun". Only for me then to realize that she, and the other fifty people were tormenting this poor guy...just because he said "nigga." As a future female black youth leader, I was so disgusted by this, because we, in fact, go to a POC high school where the word is loosely used among all POC's so It was really unfair when he was automatically a "racist"...just because of the slip of the tongue. What made me even angrier was when they had all started using his physical insecurities against him and telling him he was worthless. I, personally struggle with depression, so I know what trigger depression. Obviously I was extremely heated after the live, so I made a post about what ALL they did and how both parties were wrong. But then she came at me aggressive and stated that "you have no right to speak on this". So I brushed it off and told her personally what she had taken part in was wrong... ( she'd gotten several death threats online before and she should know what it's like to be in his shoes). Then she got angrier and made a post about how she tired of playing games with people and etc. Previously she'd also posted that all her friends were inconsiderate and didn't listen to her...she also included examples of me putting my headphones in or just shutting down completely...but I suffer from BPD just like her and I need to take a moment to unwind sometimes and breathe..but I didn't take it to the heart. Instead I asked her why she felt that way and what I could do to be better friend, but she only left me on seen...so I unsent my messages and said forget it until this happened. This morning, because I was so overwhelmed by everything I ended up having to step out of class to breathe, and she made another post stating that "go on and cry about your insecurities somewhere else...etc" I'm reading everything that I've typed back and trying to pin point where I was in the wrong...should I have approached the situation a little better. I feel like there is some built up animosity or jealousy that I may have contributed to...maybe I hurt her? ( we both obviously have bad social media habits)
Ask the community | arguments
“Our adventurous sex life is complicated”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   Right now I am feeling very low and despondent with my marriage. About 3 yr ago, my husband confided in me that he had joined a sex website, where people share photos of themselves and have some sexual fun with others through messaging. He had not shared photos of himself, but wanted to share photos of me. He enjoyed that other men were enjoying looking at me, and reading comments left by other users on my photos. I agreed to it. It seemed like a bit of fun. It was something we enjoyed together as a couple - posting a couple of photos up when we would be having a sexy night together. From here things have slowly escalated. It started with occasional photo sharing, to more frequent photo sharing, to naughty chat with other men as a couple. I decided as a sexy surprise to him I would take control of the account and post photos without him knowing. He would find it very arousing to check in on the website throughout the week (he often works away) and see that I had posted a photo. Up until this point he was always the one to post photos of me, always with my permission. This, in turn, has led to him telling me he would love me to have sexy text conversations with other men - without him being involved. This would be when we are together in bed. I would be on the phone to another man, pleasuring myself, while he watched. I was thoroughly enjoying it. It was fun, it was exciting and he was also loving it. From here it has escalated more. We are now doing this completely separately. I will be upstairs on the phone with another man. He will be downstairs, listening. This is something we had both agreed to. He was more than happy with this arrangement. We had discussed a threesome. But ultimately he is more interested in me being with someone else, than he is in joining in. He would be perfectly happy for me to go off with another man, and tell him about it after. He enjoys this sexually - and I have been too. Its incredibly fun and exciting. I have loved the attention I have been receiving and our sex life felt amazing. Our sex life now completely revolves around this idea of me being with another man. This is where things get messy. I have been engaging in this with the same man repeatedly for the past 7 months, with increasing frequency - all with the blessing of my husband. I barely know the guy, but we had started to chat in between our sexy sessions. We get along and have a lot of fun together. And I honestly feel like I have more fun with the new guy than I do with my husband. It's gotten to the point where I can't enjoy having sex with my husband without involving this other guy (over the phone) or pretending I am with the other guy. I am also finding myself being secretive about my non-sexual conversations with this guy - because I know my husband isn't keen on it. The sexual stuff he has absolutely no problem with, but engaging in normal conversation as well seems too much like a relationship dynamic to him - which I understand, but have selfishly continued to do anyway. These feelings have crept their way into other parts of my life too. I am starting to resent my life with my husband and am left with a lingering feeling of what it would be like to start afresh on my own. My new life on my own would probably involve the other guy (although I haven't told the other guy any of this) but I am very aware that it would be a casual, lustful relationship that wouldn't last - if it was anything at all. There have been things I have found difficult in my husband's and my relationship over the years, but they are things I have been able to put aside - because i love my husband. Now these things are becoming more and more of a problem for me, and I feel I would be better off on my own. My husband is a good guy - and he has never done me wrong. I feel like I've lost the love, but I don't necessarily want to throw away everything we've had over the last 10 years for the sake of a bit of fun with a guy I barely know. And at the same time I feel like I could be ready for something new. My husband was all too willing for me to go off with the other guy for a night of passion. It would have been the perfect opportunity for me to try it out without throwing away my marriage. I have declined this offer and cut contact with the other guy for now, because I know I wouldn't be doing it for the right reasons. It wouldn't be for us to enjoy as a couple. It would be for my own selfishness. I have tried my best to be honest with my husband about all this. He is obviously hurt, and I have placed a lot of blame on him when we have been arguing. He is begging me not to give up on our relationship. Part of me feels i should try and make it work with him. The other part of me doesn't want to. I have no idea where to go from here.
Ask the community | swinging, non-manogamy
“Problems with trust”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   I've been dating this woman for five years and things suddenly changed. I met this woman when I took an out of town job and we hit it off instantly. She was the fire to my soul. She was a single mother with two young boys and even though I don't normally date single mothers, there was finding about her. She made me feel like no one ever has. We were young and in love. After a month I was living with her. Eventually, her crazy side emerged and I found myself packing my stuff and waiting on the sidewalk for my ride after every major argument almost once a month. Of course persistence and love overcame the crazy and our relationship was one to be envied. A few years go by and she decided she wants to have a weight loss procedure done. She's always been beautiful in my eyes and even though I had my objections, I was one hundred percent supportive. I cared for her, cleaned up after her, cooked for her and motivated her. I made sure the kids were fed, clothes, and clean. I was on top of their chores and school work. I did what I had to do. After she recovered, her mom ended up moving in with us. Bad move. Her mom started filling my wife and son's heads with lies like I was cheating on her or I didn't love her. She would tell my wife that the kids were scared of me and that I beat them. Eventually my wife kicked me out. With no place to go, I had no choice but to stay with my parents. Three months go by and my love for her is as strong as ever. Then she tells me that her mom destroyed a wash machine in our apartment complex and they're evicting everyone. My wife reasons with them and they agree to let her stay as long as her mom leaves. Guess who gets to come back home? Yours truly returns with nothing but love and forgiveness in my heart. Or relationship goes back to being normal. Somewhat. A few months go by and I notice my wife is a little more distant than usual. She spends a lot more time on facebook. Now, I'm somewhat of a jealous person due to several previous relationships ending with them having affairs and after the loss of our son, my ex-wifes infidelity hit me hard. So when this woman told me that a few of her relationships ended when she cheated on her boyfriends, of course suspicions arose,even though she assured me that she was no longer that person. Well, one night I was up late as usual and her phone went off. I got curious and checked it. The message was from a guy. It said "lol I love you". My heart dropped. I woke her up and asked her about it. As it turns out, she added an ex-boyfriend without even considering me. She explained that he requested her and she added him without even thinking and deleted him. I let it go. She's even more distant now. One day, I snatch her phone to see what's so important that she has to shut out myself and our kids. She puts up a huge fight, trying to take it. During the struggle, I notice that she had 142 friends (I remember numbers for some reason). So I give it back to her and she does something on it for about a minute, not letting me see what she's doing, then she tries to hand it to me. I decline. Later that night, I look again and she only has 141 friends. I ask her about it the next day and she claims ignorance. Things have only gotten worse. A few weeks ago she told me that she wanted a break. She hasn't been intimate with me in months. I ask her if there's still a chance between us and all I get is maybe someday. Now I'm sleeping in my car because I have no place to go. We still talk and I spend every last dime making sure she has gas, taking her kids out to eat and just trying to make sure they are happy. I just need feedback on my situation. I've never really had anyone to talk to about my problems so I thought I'd give this site a shot. Am I wasting my time? Should I give up? I love this woman and her boys so much I would give my last breath to ensure their happiness but I'm afraid it's going to cost me more than just money.
Ask the community | dating, commitment
“Friends or lovers?”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   So I've been best friends with this girl for 4yrs. Last yr I came out of a 7yr relationship and she was totally my rock through the breakup. We went out for Valentine's Day and continued to spend almost everyday together for the last couple months. I began to fall in love with her. A month and half ago we fell asleep together and held each other all night. It was wonderful and I thought we had maybe moved to the next level. But then nothing else progressed. We're still together all the time but no sex or even kissing. I started to feel my love was one-sided and was feeling awkward when we were together. This past week another woman that I guess had been eyeing me up for awhile contacted me and we began to talk. There was an immediate connection so we decided to go on a date last night and there was sparks. When my friend found out she got very angry that I went out with another woman. I told her I loved her and I was confused. She didn't respond and refused to talk to me today. Meanwhile the new girl wants to go on a date again tomorrow. I'm confused and don't what to do. I don't want to hurt my friend but also don't want to pass on an opportunity for something real with a woman likes me.
Ask the community | dating
“Throwing blame and anger”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   I am in a serious relationship and we have had our ups and downs like anyone. I have moved away from my awesome job, family and friends and moved 18 hrs away from everyone and everything I've known. During this time my bf has had his own issues with not seeing his daughter, buying a house, me moving in and everything. I've helped him the best I can with those issues. Lately I have had issues of my own with anxiety and some depression. When he was stressed he would occasionally lash out at me for saying or doing stupid things. Like starting hypothetical conversations, or not closing drawers all the way. He gets so angry and when I try to explain myself or my reasons for saying or doing something he gets more irate. When I get upset or irritable it is unacceptable and starts a huge fight. He blames his outbursts on me saying that "if you wouldn't have starting talking about it I wouldn't have gotten mad" or "you could see me getting pissed you should have shut up" "you're talking in circles and repeating yourself and it pissed me off". Our last argument we were watching a show about abuse and I made a comment saying "I wouldn't beat you up if you cheated, I would just leave because you don't do that to someone you love" then he goes on about how "yeah, because you know better than to try anything because you would lose" I responded with "I'm sure I could hurt you if I wanted to, but I wouldn't". He took this as a threat and it started a huge fight. I was so confused why he was so angry because he didn't even hear the part that I wouldn't ever do anything, he only heard that I was threatening him. I tried to explain that's not what I meant and he accused me of taking back what I say, and this is why men call women crazy and "answer me and tell me what you would do to hurt me because there is no way" he tells and screams at me to shut up then is enraged that I get pissed... I feel like my issues aren't important, that I'm not allowed to get mad and that I have to watch what I say to not make him upset. I talked to him about seeking anger management and he won't do it. He feels like I'm making our issues his fault and I'm not taking responsibility for making him mad.... I am ready to move out. Is this normal or am I in a controlling and manipulating relationship?
Ask the community | arguments, emotional abuse
“We don't go anywhere”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   I've been in a realtionship with my current bf for 2 years now...well, sort of - I'm saying that because in the beginning we had a long distance relationship. He eventually moved to my city (an honorable gesture, may i say so) and in 2 months we will celebrate 1 years since we have lived in the same city. However, i must address something that it bothers me so so much. We never go out. And it's not even about spending money or something like that. I would be very happy to just go to the park together and sit on a bench. The thing is he denies to do almost everything. At first i thought he was tired, or he is busy at work or something... but this is a constant. Almost every time i have to initiate things. And 90% of times, he says he doesn't want to do anything. He just wants to sit in the house all day. I understand that he doesn't like to go to clubs and whatever (although i would love to go in such a place together) but even when i compromise it seems it's not enough. All he wants to do is sit in the house and that's all. I am so frustrated because i want to make memories with him, but it seems like he doesn't want to do the same with me... i really suffered when we were in a long distance relationship because we couldn't spend too much time together and we didn't do many things that couple get to do. I thought that if he moves here we would do stuff together...we would discover the beauty of this city together, we would explore caffees and streets and stuff like that. I told him about my feelings. I told him that i want us to do more things together...but it seems like every time i just hit a wall. We have been together for 2 years now...and all i can remember from this relationship is how we are sitting in the house all day...doing absolutely nothing. Sometimes i feel like he is only neglecting ME. In his past relationships he told me he used to visit/do all these stuff that i want now to do with him... (going to the clubs, visiting other cities, exploring parts of our town). I don't understand why he doesn't want to do things with me, but he did things with his ex and with his friends... What should i do? I am starting to lose hope...
Ask the community | communication, arguments, long distance
“Too soon to say ‘I love you’”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   I recently met a wonderful lady through a dating app — about 2 weeks ago. We went to dinner, sports activities, long walks, talked on the phone for hours and everything had been great. She and I had very romantic get togethers where we exchange lots of passionate kisses & hugs... She is very funny but also a little unfiltered (very direct in communication and graphic sexual humor)... We exchange texts often throughout the day and it feels like we are truly a couple already! I got to the point where last night I told her “I love you”..... Last night she asked me over to her house which ended up with me staying over until 5am while her 3 kids (9, 13, 15) were asleep upstairs... I have not met her kids yet... (we have been on several “dates” while the kids remained at home unsupervised which makes me feel her priorities are unbalanced)... Last night ended up to be a very passionate night — too passionate. What I experienced was sensory overload which left me with feelings of guilt and shame — and she was all bubbly and loving it... My question is, do people end relationships primarily based on a complete mismatch on bedroom passion? And, is saying “I love you” after 13 days too early — and ending a relationship right after saying that screwed up? I appreciate your input in advance!
Ask the community | dating
“Too much, too soon?”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   A few weeks ago I connected with a woman on a dating app, this one is designed to work with your Facebook profile and recommends friends of friends etc with the potential of finding someone more suitable. We’re both in our late 20 but not quite at 30 yet. We are mutual friends with another couple, me knowing the guy through university and her the girl through a previous job. Long story short the conversation quickly progressed and it was clear we found one another easy to talk to. We exchanged numbers and she was quite forward saying I could then ask her what her plans for the weekend were. We arranged dinner for Saturday but on Saturday morning she asked if I wanted to meet sooner and go for a coffee and progress to dinner. Throughout the week she had kept telling me how much she was looking forward to our date. Our first date essentially ended up being 8 hours together with conversation flowing easily, no awkward silences or thinking what to talk about next. We then arranged a date for the following week, a dinner on Friday at a nice restaurant and once again on the afternoon of the date she is asking again to meet earlier for a drink in a bar and progress to dinner. Dinner is extremely good and again conversation flowing and it is apparent how similar we are. She invites me home that evening and to spare details that also went very well and we end up spending the Saturday together talking and relaxing with the intention of spending another night together at my house. But a few hours in to being at mine she then asks if she could go home as suddenly everything just got intense for her and she realises she hasn’t spend two nights in a row with a man before. I then get a message on the Sunday telling me that it all got too much too quickly and she would like to leave things there. It’s been two weeks now and I wasn’t quite ready to finish, in fact for me given how easy it was to be in her company I thought this had the foundations to be something serious and given how much more forward she has been than me, thought it was mutual. I would like to reach out to her again but I am also respecting her boundaries. To me we were a good fit but I can’t quite understand why she didn’t just ask to slow down instead of the reality that is completely stopping things altogether? She hasn’t told me she no longer likes me, just that it was too much for her so I don’t know where exactly that leaves me. I haven’t felt that spark with someone I’ve dated in a long while that I did with her so don’t want it to extinguish.
Ask the community | dating, commitment

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