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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
How to Keep Growing As a Couple
No matter how you slice it, relationships today are struggling at best. According to statistics, people are getting divorced at a rate of about 50%. Divorce aside, couples that stay together aren't necessarily faring much better. People are having problems communicating, staying in dead-end relationships and becoming more disillusioned with relationships by the day. So how do you make things work? The answer is simple -- growth. While the answer is simple, it's one of the most difficult things to carry out in practice. To grow means going through pain and discomfort. However, on the other side of this is the most fulfilling relationship you could imagine. Read these tips and apply them to your relationship. Take the Utmost Care of Yourself First When you take care of yourself, the benefits will spill over into your relationship. In fact, you should think of your spouse or partner as your mirror. You affect each other and learn things about yourself through each other, so use this as a tool to get better, rather than to run from. Make sure that you're getting real about the things holding you back from being your greatest self. Constantly audit so that you're able to make changes accordingly. Give yourself a chance by starting with healthy life practice. Eat quality foods, workout every day and make sure that you're getting the best sleep possible. Studies also show that meditating for 20 minutes every day can have tremendous benefits for your health, mental sharpness, and overall well-being. When you're your best self, you will bring your best self to your relationship, making it a win-win. Get Strategic With Your Seduction -- Then Forget About Strategy Most people don't put much thought into attraction. We feel as though love is supposed to be the end all, be all, and then feel guilty if we're not always on fire for our spouse. Trust and believe that attraction is something that has to be continuously cultivated. Start by waking up every day with the assumption that you are dating your partner all over again. When you don't take each other for granted, you will have fresh eyes and feelings and will treat them accordingly. Take the time to tease, flirt and build tension. Take time every day to engage in this dance, making sure that you're strategic about creating feelings in each other. However, once you're both flirty and on board with the dance, throw strategy out the window. The last thing you would want is to be robotic during the seduction process. Routinely Change Your Scenery Finally, take time to get away for a bit sometimes. Even planning a staycation in a hotel you've never been inside before is better than getting stuck in a rut. Comfort is the best part about relationships, but at the same time, familiarity breeds contempt. Plan vacations, have date nights and do new activities together to keep things fresh. Consider these tips so that you can improve your relationship by leaps and bounds.
User article | Health
“I want to get away from my husband”
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 Please bear with me whilst i explain, but i really need some advice if possible. I have checked my husbands facebook this morning, i dont know why as i havnt for a long time and promised to stop doing it ( i used to as he has cheated several times in the past) and i have seen a message from someone i think he had an affair with years ago, but never could prove it. The message i think was her follow up to meeting him at work, where she has told him something, i dont know what, but she did say something along the lines of 'i hope your ok, i just thought you should know as its your marriage on the line, and i didnt think it was fair even if she didn't go through with it' i have no idea what that was referring to, but to me it sounds like he has been up to something with someone and its about to come out? its left me really confused, because looking through his facebook and he has been looking at hot tub getaways for us secretly (our anniversary is coming up), he says lovely things on facebook about me and doesn't seem to be having an affair? but i cant ask him what it is all about otherwise he will know iv been on his facebook again. The trouble is it is eating away at me, and i've come to realise today that i don't trust him, not one bit! Im a nervous wreck when he goes out and look for clues he may have been with someone, i hate when he gets drunk as he loses morals,and sometimes he will start being cocky and starts with all the insults, he gets at the kids who are autistic and its really unfair to them, and he is drinking a lot lately, every night in fact but most weekends are spent with him being drunk or hungover. His dad is an alcoholic and my husband is going the same way, i thought he was getting help but he wasn't turning up to the sessions, a letter came through the post saying they were sorry he couldn't attend but he denied it, and said they must have made a mistake. I've had enough and want to leave, right now! But i dont know how to, i have 3 kids, no money, nowhere to go, so i am trapped. I need to go away from him altogether, we have tried to split up several times in the past but he always sweet talks his way back. If i don't do it now then ill go on for the next few weeks/months with it all going round in my head and pretending everything is fine, then ill never do it, at all. i cant keep going through this but i just don't know how to break away, if i ask him to leave he will find ways to keep coming back, obviously the kids are one excuse for him, and i'm too soft with him. I don't want to take the kids away from him, i wouldn't do that, but i just need to be away from him for now, but cant leave him with the kids so i'm stuck. It might seem i'm being a bit hasty but i have had enough of this over the years, that message was the last straw, and the fact i'm still checking up on him says it all really. how do i break free? i really need some advice on where to start if possible. thanks in advance x
Ask the community | trust, jealousy
“Crushing on someone else”
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 a boyfriend, we dated for 7 months so far. He’s white, tall, gorgeous, pretty, nice blue eyes. But he is so clingy and he never had great relationships in his past. He always got cheated on with his past relationships. Pretty much every single one of them. I don’t kno why that happened to him. I think cause he is such a nice guy and very sweet and he’s sensitive and very clingy. And he can take advantage of pretty easy. Like 3 months later of dating, I met this other guy from work. And he is so cute. He is very cute. I had a crush on him. And he’s white also. Which that doesn’t happened to me. I don’t get white guys to like me or have an interest in me. My boyfriend is the first white guy I ever dated and I am shocked and surprised and I don’t wanna lose him cause he’s literally perfect but I don’t wanna be in a relationship. I wanna be single. I’m young , I wanna fun. I don’t wanna settle down. I never got the chance to be by myself and be single. I always been with a boyfriend then break up, then another right after 1 or 2 months, literally. I didn’t have time to be single for a good ass time since I started to date date. My first boyfriend was black, dated 9 months. 2 months later, I had another boyfriend, Hispanic, 9 months or 10, broke up, 2 months apart, got back together 10 more months then broke up. 1 month later, I met the guy I’m with now. So yup. The second boyfriend it was tough on me, I fell in love. He was my love. The love of my life. Even to this day he is still the love of my life. I’m not sure if I’m gonna fall in love again. It’s rare. But yeah, so the guy that I have a crush on. He likes me back. That never happened. A white guy. No. And me and him, we texted, talked on the phone. Etc. he doesn’t know I have a boyfriend, I don’t wanna tell him cause I think he doesn’t wanna deal with me no more. I don’t want anything serious with him. Just to have fun and hang. But I can’t do that behind my boyfriend’s back. That’s the thing , I don’t wanna be in a committed relationship but I love my boyfriend. I’m not madlyyyy in love. But I do love him. I don’t wanna lose him cause I know for a fact I won’t find someone else like him. He’s very gorgeous btw like a model. He could be one. So it’s hard to find a guy like that. I wanna be in an open relationship with him because I don’t want to cheat on him also I don’t wanna be nervous every single time when I text a dude or talk to a dude but I’m scared, I know for a fact that he won’t like that. I just wanna mingle other guys, but I still wanna have my boyfriend. And the guy I like, I have feelings for him and I’m scared to fallll for him. I can’t. But at the same time, I wanna be with him like hang out and do fun stuff. It’s hard. I don’t know why I got myself in this mess. All I want is life is to be alone forever. I wanna be alone . But I don’t really wanna be alone alone. Also one time my boyfriend found out I was texting a dude. He fucking went thru my shit. Privacy man. Like wtf. I was pissed. And he was like what is this? Who is this? Etc. and yelling at me and he said that he’s breaking up with me. But I stood my ground and fought for us. I was stupid. We should have broken up. It would be easier but also I don’t wanna lose him. I really don’t. And ever since then , the incident, he doesn’t trust me. At all. Like he wanna see my phone, messages , constantly texting back and forth 24/7. He wanna kno where I’m at and such , what I’m doing. It’s soooo annoying. I don’t have my freedom. I’m not 17 years old or 16. I’m 20. Like come on. So I can’t do anything behind his back cause he is soooo clingy and he is always behind my back so I can’t do shit. It just sad. My whole love life is sad. I can’t never be happy. I’m never happy. Which is okay. I have been thru so much worse. So I don’t know what to do with my boyfriend or the guy that I have a crush on. Basically the whole situation.
Ask the community | communication, arguments
Being parents to disabled children part 2
In part one of “The positives of being a parent to a disabled child” we found that, despite facing greater challenges, parents with a disabled child often reported that their child’s disability had a positive effect on their lives.  “Indeed, irrespective of the child’s impairment type (e.g. ASD, cerebral palsy), approximately two out of three parents in this study agreed that, overall, having a disabled child has been positive for their family.” We drew from a study of 175 parents and started looking at what they meant by ‘positive’. Here’s what else parents had to say: “I’ve become a stronger and more compassionate person”  When care and attention is highly demanding, sometimes people find out what they’re really made of, and what their relationship is made of too. Demanding times often reveal the point where your resolve begins to wear thin, or where you start to buckle. As a parent in this situation, the love for your child and your commitment to caring for them could strengthen that resolve in a way that surpasses your own expectations. Just as athletes can tap into a hidden pool of strength in the final lap of a 10,000-metre run, parents also find energy, patience and, endurance they didn’t know they had. As a parent, you face the added mental challenge of knowing you cannot quit or duck out but, much like that athlete, it’s your team of family, friends, and support networks that enables you to keep going.  ‘As a result of having a child with a disability, our family unit has emerged stronger’; [B3] This extra energy to keep going can show parents how much they’re willing to give of themselves, which may surprise them. Especially those that perhaps considered themselves to be less caring or compassionate in nature.  “I’ve been able to laugh more, and I’m less bothered by trivial things” Parents facing additional challenges can sometimes gain a focus and a perspective that others do not seem to share. And that perspective – what matters and what doesn’t – can become something that sets those parents free from the humdrum of daily life. This perspective isn’t easily taught either. As people who get bent out of shape over trivial things will tell you, to them they’re not trivial issues – they’re deadly serious ones. Perspective is also coupled with resilience. Having bounced back from a series of challenges, you’re more likely to know what is worth your energy and what isn’t. Without realising it, you’ve probably become very good at estimating the value of your energy, your effort and your time. This might explain why parents with disabled children can sometimes enjoy life more, and laugh at the silly things, rather than be upset by them. Now that you’ve seen what other parents have to say about their experiences and how it’s shaped them, we’d love to hear your story. Have you, your relationship, or your family been changed for the better through your experience? Either leave us a comment, or get in touch with Contact. 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
2 min read
Disabled children and interfering in-laws
When you’re the parent of a disabled child, there’s a lot of information to absorb. Some of this can be useful but, like all parents, you may also find yourselves on the receiving end of unsolicited tips, advice, and wisdom. When it comes from your in-laws, it can be hard to know where to draw the line. In-laws can be a be a valuable source of emotional, financial, and practical support [1]. Depending on where they live, they can be a useful source of childcare, and play a valuable part in helping your children develop new skills [2]. Many can represent a calming influence during new and stressful situations that they already know their way around. As a parent of a disabled child, the issue becomes more complex. There are medical, social, and educational factors to consider that your and your partner’s parents may never have had to deal with before. Even if their parenting expertise hasn’t gone out of date, it may not be relevant to your child’s specific needs. However difficult your in-laws might be, it’s worth remembering that they have raised children too – they even raised someone that you fell in love with! But that doesn’t mean they’re always right. If their attempts to offer support just lead to arguments, the support itself may not be worth the emotional price you pay for it [3]. As the parent, it’s up to you to accept or reject offers of support. While your in-laws may have some useful nuggets, you and your partner are the ones who have access to the full picture as to what’s best for your child. Annoying in-laws If your in-laws are constantly texting bits of unhelpful advice, or if they come to the house and criticise a routine that you’ve been working hard to establish with the support of your child’s care team, then you need to find a way to respond. While the most obvious and possibly most satisfying response is to tackle them directly, this could lead to unnecessary arguments. Even when you know you are right, you still run the risk of turning your in-laws against you and upsetting your partner. The most effective way to deal with interfering in-laws is to talk to your partner first [4]. Speak openly to your partner about how you feel and why you’re concerned. As with any difficult conversation, start by talking about your own feelings, stick to the issue at hand, and give your partner a chance to digest what you’ve said. Don’t criticise or attack your in-laws – your partner has had to deal with them a lot longer than you have, and you don’t want to provoke a defensive reaction! Differences of opinion When you become parents, your priorities shift and your relationships change. This can include a rise in conflict with your in-laws. If you get on very well with them, this might just mean a few tiffs but, if you’re already prone to rowing, things could turn very stormy [5]. This makes sense as there’s more at stake than before – the little things you used to be able to ignore now need to be addressed head-on. Like you, your parents-in-law want the best for your child. Unlike you, they’re not around every day to make fully informed decisions about what’s actually best. If they start getting more involved than you want them to, it can feel intrusive and controlling. This can lead to problems between you and your partner, as you battle to strike the right balance [5]. Creating an effective boundary can be difficult. You and your partner will have to decide what’s acceptable and what’s not. You might want to agree a strategy in advance – for example, any time your parents or in-laws offer tips, thank them, and let them know you’ll consider their advice. You and your partner can then discuss the advice in private and make an appropriate decision. Sharing information It can be very helpful to update your in-laws on any information you learn about your disabled child. This could include medical information, or any strategies you’ve learned from your paediatrician, speech and language therapist, or other trusted provider like a charity or the NHS. If you have this information written down or printed out, show it to them, or ask your partner to. Discuss the information to help them understand what you’re trying to achieve with your child. It may also help them understand that you and your partner are in touch with the authoritative experts so they do not need to worry constantly that you may be doing the wrong thing! Getting to know your in-laws better Being on good terms with your in-laws can have unexpected positive side effects. One study found that couples who have closer ties to their in-laws tend to be happier and more satisfied with their own relationships [6]. So, rather than shutting them out, ask yourself it it’s possible to get to know your in-laws a little better. Take the opportunity to learn more about your partner’s background; encourage your in-laws to talk about the family history and customs. These conversations can help you form a bond, and may even have a positive impact on your relationship with your partner [7]. If you continue to struggle with your in-laws, take some comfort from the possibility that things can improve over time. Even the most vocal in-laws are capable of changing and coming around to accept your way of doing things. References [1] Goetting, A. (1990). Patterns of Support Among In-Laws in the United States A Review of Research. Journal of Family Issues, 11(1), 67–90. [2] Enyart, S. (2012). The transition to extended family: Examining the links between turbulence and children-in-laws’ goals, topic avoidance, and relational outcomes. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. [3] Schober, P. S. (2013). Gender Equality and Outsourcing of Domestic Work, Childbearing, and Relationship Stability Among British Couples. Journal of Family Issues, 34(1), 25–52. [4] Rittenour, E. C., and Kellas, K. J. (2015). Making Sense of Hurtful Mother-in-law Messages: Applying Attribution Theory to the In-Law Triad. Communication Quarterly, 63(1), 62–68. [5] Bryant, C.M., Conger., R.D., and Meehan., J.M. (2001). The Influence of In-Laws on Change in Marital Success. Journal of Marriage and Family, 63(3), 614-626. [6] [Timmer, S.G., and Veroff, J. (2000). Family Ties and the Discontinuity of Divorce in Black and White Newlywed Couples. Journal of Marriage and Family, 62(2), 349-361.   [7] Serewicz, M.C.M., Hosmer, R., Ballard, R.L., and Griffin, R. A. (2008). Disclosure from In-laws and the Quality of In-law and Marital Relationships. Communication Quarterly, 56(4), 427–444.
Article | grandparents, parenting, disability
2 min read
Considering having another child
For any parents, having another child is a big decision that requires serious consideration. So, if you are thinking about having another child, it’s likely your discussion will be affected by the financial, social, and health factors already in play in your lives. As parents of disabled children, you may be feeling this even more strongly. Studies have shown that parents raising children with disabilities are more likely to experience mental health issues such as anxiety, stress, and depression, (Stoneman, 2007) as well as relationship difficulties and problems at work (Simsek et al., 2015). One study asked parents of disabled children their thoughts around having another child. The main concerns included: Having less time to care for existing children Not having enough money to care for another child Risk of health problems in the next child (Simsek et al., 2015) Siblings You may also be concerned about what kind of life another child would have as the sibling of someone who requires regular extra care. You might be worried that your next child would have a stressful life, or that you wouldn’t be able to dedicate as much time to them as you would like to. This is certainly worth considering - some studies have shown that siblings of disabled children can experience increased stress in their lives (Murray, 2000) (Javadian, 2011). However, there is also evidence of siblings feeling a positive benefit of living with a disabled sibling. Children who are involved in the care of disabled siblings can grow up learning to be more helpful and compassionate than other children, and may also develop greater emotional awareness (Javadian, 2011) (Fisman et al., 1996). How will having another child affect your relationship? While parents of disabled children are statistically more likely to separate (Gardener and Harmon, 2002) (Patterson, 2002), many couples have a much more positive experience, and find that their relationship is strengthened and their bond solidified. Parents of children with additional needs have to rely on each other for support, and this can benefit your couple relationship, bringing you closer together (Simsek et al., 2015). It’s likely that you’ll have a lot to think about as you make a decision around whether or not to try for another child. However, depending on your experiences, you may feel more confident knowing that you’ve made it this far, learning and growing together. Whatever other factors you need to consider, the fact that you are thinking about it at all could be a positive sign about the strength of your relationship as a couple, and your capacity as parents. References Cahill, B. M., & Glidden, L. M. (1996). Influence of child diagnosis on family and parental functioning: Down syndrome versus other disabilities. American journal of mental retardation: AJMR, 101(2), 149-160. Fisman, S., Wolf, L., Ellison, D., Gillis, B., Freeman, T., & Szatmari, P. (1996). Risk and protective factors affecting the adjustment of siblings of children with chronic disabilities. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 35(11), 1532-1541. Gardner, J., & Harmon, T. (2002). Exploring resilience from a parent’s perspective: A qualitative study of six resilient mothers of children with an intellectual disability. Australian Social Work, 55(1), 60-68. Javadian, R. (2011). A comparative study of adaptability and cohesion in families with and without a disabled child. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 30, 2625-2630. Kearney, P. M., & Griffin, T. (2001). Between joy and sorrow: being a parent of a child with developmental disability. Journal of advanced nursing, 34(5), 582-592. Marsh, J. C. (2003). Editorial: Arguments for Family Strengths Research. Social Work, 48(2), 147-149. Murray, J. S. (2000). Attachment theory and adjustment difficulties in siblings of children with cancer. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 21(2), 149-169. Patterson, J. M. (2002). Integrating family resilience and family stress theory. Journal of marriage and family, 64(2), 349-360. Şimşek, T. T., Taşçı, M., & Karabulut, D. (2015). Desire to have other children in families with a chronically disabled child and its effect on the relationship of the parents. Turkish Archives of Pediatrics/Türk Pediatri Arşivi, 50(3), 163. Stoneman, Z., & Gavidia-Payne, S. (2006). Marital adjustment in families of young children with disabilities: Associations with daily hassles and problem-focused coping. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 111(1), 1-14.
Article | parenting, disability, children
2 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 stepfamily
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
Body image and low self-esteem
While it’s nice to imagine a time when we can all be comfortable with our bodies, and focus on being healthy and happy instead of worrying about what we look like or what others think of us, we’re not quite there yet. Research shows that both men and women struggle with body image. This affects our self-esteem, which in turn has an impact on our overall relationship satisfaction [1]. In a relationship, many of us want to present our best sides to our partners. If you’re dating, or in the early days of a relationship, you might find yourself drowning in insecurities. When you’re trying to convince others to look at you and see the best, it’s easy to look at yourself and see the worst. You might find yourself fixating on your flaws and insecurities, questioning how someone could possibly be attracted to you, let alone fall in love with you. Be kinder to yourself Your partner, prospective or actual, may well be doing the exact same thing with their own insecurities. Think about a time when a partner has expressed their insecurity about something they see as a flaw. When you love or care for someone, the things they worry about are often the things you love most about them. For example, your partner might think they don’t have the best singing voice – and maybe they don’t – but your heart melts when you hear them singing along to the radio. You might think you’re a terrible dancer but, even if you are, there’s nobody your partner would rather dance with.  Now think about this in terms of body image. Have you ever been totally in love with the things a partner worries about – an untameable curl, an eyelid freckle, or a misshapen finger? Well, it works both ways. Even if you think you have a wonky nose, silly eyebrows and a doughy tummy, your partner can still see you as the cutest, cuddliest creature on the planet. Most of us are our own worst critics. What you think of as your flaws could be just the thing your partner finds most adorable about you. In studies of body image, both men and women were less satisfied with their own bodies than their partners were [2] [3]. So, knowing that the person most likely to be most critical of your body is you, could you give yourself a break and try to celebrate the body you’ve got? Be kinder to your partner  If your partner has a negative body image, the first thing you can do is the most obvious thing – be kinder to them. Sincerity is essential here. It’s no good throwing out random compliments for the sake of it if your partner doesn’t believe you. While you can’t be 100% responsible for how someone feels about themselves, studies do suggest that the more things your partner believes you like about them, the more loved they will feel [4].  This can work in your favour too. When you see your partner in a positive light, you are more likely to feel satisfied with your relationship. This is worth bearing in mind if you think you might be prone to taking your partner for granted. And, the more loved your partner feels, the more optimistic you are both likely to be about the future of your relationship [4]. This, of course, can apply in any relationship – if you’re reading this because you’re seeking advice for a friend, you could do well to remember it in your own relationships too. How to show appreciation You might be wondering how to go about showing your partner that you appreciate all their components. While the specifics are very much down to the individual, most of us fall into one of a few categories, and there are certain things you can look out for to notice the types of things that your partner is likely to appreciate. Some people, for example, are moved most by words of love – simply being told, “You have lovely hands” is enough, provided it’s delivered sincerely. Some rely on physical intimacy, which doesn’t just mean sex – it can also include back rubs, cuddling or actually holding those lovely hands. Others need quality time together to know that they are truly loved, or little practical gestures like surprise cups of tea (delivered into their lovely hands). This isn’t just about paying them compliments—it’s about demonstrating that you love being with them. Try a few different things. Notice what your partner appreciates most, and try to do more of that. Of course, if your partner has very low self-esteem, it can be difficult for any kind of positivity to sink in [4]. If this sounds like you, try to be more considerate to your partner in general, and attentive to their insecurities. If it’s something they’re trying to change, support their efforts. If it’s something they can’t change, keep reminding them that you wouldn’t want them to even if they could. We all have things we don’t like about ourselves and we all want our partners to see us in a positive light. But even people with low self-esteem feel happier in their relationships when they truly feel that their partners love and appreciate them [4] – weird body parts and all. Getting support This article is about general body image worries. If you are worried that your partner has an eating disorder, or consistently negative body image, seek external help. You can find many routes to support through the eating disorder charity, Beat. References [1] Tager, D., Good, G., and Morrison, J. B. (2006). Our bodies, ourselves revisited: Male body image and psychological wellbeing. International Journal of Men’s Heath, 5, 228-237. [2] Markey, C. N., & Markey, P. M. (2006). Romantic relationships and body satisfaction among young women. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 35, 256-264. [3] Goins, L. B., Markey, and C.N., Gillen, M.M. (2012). Understanding Men’s Body Image in the Context of Their Romantic Relationships. American Journal of Men’s Health, 6(3), 240-248. [4] Murray, S., Holmes, J., Griffin, D., Bellavia, G., and Rose, P. (2001). The mismeasure of love: how self-doubt contaminates relationship beliefs. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Vol.27(4), pp.423-436.
Article | self-confidence, YPc
If your partner is aggressive
What am I up against? Every relationship is different, and what works for one couple might not be what works for another. But it’s fair to say that no relationship will benefit from partners being aggressive toward one another. There are several forms of aggression, here we’re going to look at physical and psychological. Firstly, the physical kind. Research tells us that: 10% to 48% of adolescents report experiencing physical aggression in their relationships [1]. These acts include pushing, slapping, hitting and being held down. And secondly, the psychological kind. This includes: Making fun of the other person or calling them hurtful names. Saying negative things about their appearance, body, or family and friends. Telling them who they can see and where they can go. Constantly checking up on them and what they are doing. Using private information to manipulate or threaten them. Research also says that: 25%-50% of adolescents report psychological aggression while dating [1]. Physical aggression is often seen to be more harmful, but psychological aggression can be just as damaging to the individual and the relationship.  How do I deal with it?  1. Recognise the signs, and trust your judgement Early signs to watch out for are controlling behaviours, threats of violence, attempts to control your social interactions, or a short temper. During a series of interviews with young women who had experienced violence in relationships, they could all recognise these early signs but didn’t always trust their own judgement and leave the relationship. They also said it would have been much easier to get out early, rather than waiting until the relationship was more developed. 2. Consider carefully how long you hold on Brand new relationships can be powerful and compelling; this is one of the reasons that young adults sometimes stay in violent relationships, hoping their partners will get their anger management in check. When there’s a connection with someone, it might be easy to believe that you can fix them, or that you can heal them in some way. But research suggests that as relationships progress, it’s likely that the violence will too. The longer you stay in a violent relationship, the worse it’s likely to become [3]. 3. It’s not your fault If you’re a victim of violence, it really isn’t your fault - even if you feel like you’re exacerbating the situation. According to research, young people often stay in violent relationships because they feel like it’s their own fault that their partner is behaving in this way. It’s also quite common for people in a violent or aggressive relationship to justify the behaviour as ‘caring’, or ‘their way’ of expressing love [2]. They may be in difficult circumstances or have suffered past experiences that have contributed to the way they are, but it’s up to them to get help for that. You shouldn’t be punished for their emotional or psychological struggles. If you continue to put up with this behaviour, there’s a danger that it will become normal in your eyes. It could begin blurring your sense of what is right and wrong, which will make it even more difficult to leave the relationship [2].  4. Take it to someone Young men and women who experience violence often don’t report it because they don’t recognise it as violence or think no one will take them seriously [3]. This is most commonly the case with psychological violence, as it is often deemed to be a lesser offence than physical or sexual violence. This is a dangerous assumption; abuse of any kind should be taken seriously. While it’s a good thing to seek support from a friend, there’s a limit to the assistance friends can give in protecting someone from violence. If you don’t feel ready to go to a formal source of help, like an official support helpline, consider someone you can trust like a lecturer or a teacher. They can be impartial as they’re outside of the situation. [3] References [1] Halpern, Oslak, Young, Martin, & Kupper, 2001; Jouriles, McDonald, Garrido, Rosenfield, & Brown, 2005 [2] C. Barter, 2009 [3] Christine Barter et al., 2009
Article | physical abuse, emotional abuse, YPc
If you’re starting to argue a lot
What am I up against? When a new relationship kicks off, it can feel like everything’s wonderful. You don’t want to spend a minute without them, everything they do is adorable, and the way they slurp their tea is an endearing quirk. But, gradually, you awake from your love-induced coma and find yourself saying things like “you weren’t listening just then, were you?” This isn’t to say it’s all going downhill, but when you first start arguing, it may strike you that now you have to work at it. How to I deal with it? 1. Connect with each other People connect in different ways. The key is in understanding how your partner likes to connect, as well as how you like to connect. For example, some people feel connected with their partner through words of affirmation (“I love you”, or “I appreciate you” being the classics), meaning they like to be told how much they you are valued. Others feel special and valued by being shown physical affection, or by sharing quality time with their partner, or receiving thoughtful gifts. Everyone connects differently, so if you can learn how your partner connects, and they focus on how you connect, you’re both onto a winner. 2. Demonstrate commitment The golden ticket here is the word ‘demonstrate’. You may well be very committed and loyal to your new partner, but if you don’t show that commitment, the other person might not be able to feel it. And if they can’t feel it, they may not know your commitment is even there. It might be just as simple as saying the words, or involving them in other aspects of your life. Just let them know you’re keen to share your life with them.   3. Communicate regularly The art of conversation is not so much about the eloquent and intelligent back and forth between people, but about being able to listen. One of the biggest blockages to modern conversation and communication is a mobile device with a wi-fi signal. If you cast aside technology, physically face one another and listen as much as you talk, this will boost your communication no end. Do activities together that allow you to talk, such as playing a game, baking a cake or going for a walk. Communication in front of a TV, a computer screen or a tablet can dry up faster than a puddle in the Sahara. 4. Show care You might be surprised at how easy it is to show care. It’s often the small things that you can do for each other day-to-day that tend to make a big difference. OnePlusOne, the relationship research charity behind Click, ran a campaign called Love Nuggets, where people submitted their favourite gestures of care from their partner. In pole position was “A hug and an ‘I love you’”, followed by “making a cup of tea for them in the morning”, and thirdly, “the other person cancels what they were doing so we could spend some time together”. So, nothing mind-blowing, just some loving, consistent day-to-day gestures that go a long way. 5. Get good at resolving conflicts Every couple faces conflicts. What matters is how you deal with them. If handled correctly, they can even strengthen a relationship. Whatever the conflict, it might be helpful to take a moment before you react to it. It’s quite easy to fire from the hip during stressful situations and say things you might regret. Five minutes can be enough to get your mind and feelings straight. Part of healthy conflict is avoiding the temptation to try and win. Try to work together and tackle the conflict as a pair. Remember that arguments are not necessarily the sign of a poor relationship - any long term relationship needs maintenance.
Article | communication, dating, YPc
If you don’t feel ready for sex
What am I up against? When ‘the norm’ is to have lots and lots of sex (or at least it just seems to be) by the time you’re ‘legal’, there can be huge pressures from friends and classmates. You might encounter pressure from elsewhere too. You may have a partner that’s pushing, or you may be putting pressure on yourself. The bottom line is, there’s pressure from all directions to have sex at a young age. How can I deal with it? It appears that everyone else is having sex all the time A survey of nearly 3,600 11- to 16-year-olds in the UK found that 86% of respondents had never had sexual intercourse. In the same survey, 78% of people overestimated the sexual activity of their peers, and many people believed their peers to be ‘more experienced’ than they actually were [1]. Remember that everyone wants to portray an image, so there’s a chance that even people close to you will be keen to exaggerate (or even invent) their sexual experiences. A person’s reputation doesn’t rest on what they do, but on what people believe they do. Choose what's right for you In one survey of teenage girls in 2010, one third of young women under the age of 15 said they regretted their decision to have sex as early as they did. As part of the study, they also asked those girls if they felt pressured to have sex early, and 20% of them said yes. But not everyone regrets their first time; some people have sex for the first time quite young and look back on it fondly. Many young women from the study said their regret stemmed from a lack of planning with their partner and a lack of control over the sexual experience. So, considering this, if you don’t want to go down the “it just sort of happened” route, keep your own intentions clear in your mind and, if appropriate, share them with your partner. Once you feel the time is right to have sex, try not to get too worked up about it. Rather, let it be something that you’ll enjoy and hopefully remember fondly.  Feel free to talk to your partner about the experience, plan ahead and don’t be afraid to say what you do and don’t want.  Consider talking with someone, maybe even a parent You might think that any teenager would rather set themselves on fire than talk to their parents about sex but, according to a survey of 1,000 13- to 18-year-olds in the UK, more than half of teens actually want to talk to their parents about sex and would trust their parental guidance if they gave it. So if you have a good relationship with one (or both) of your parents, that might be something to consider. References [1] ‘Young people not having as much sex, drugs or alcohol as they think they are’, 2014
Article | sex, YPc
If your partner is regularly distracted
What am I up against? If you’re a good listener, you already know that listening is all about giving someone your full attention. In a world with internet on tap, there are a million ways that attention can be stolen. And when technology overrides the attention we need, our relationships lose out. There’s even a name for this – it’s called “technoference”. One study found that “technoference”, where computers, phones, tablets, or TVs interrupt couples’ everyday interactions, occurred in around 70% of relationships. In another study, 38% of partners said they had even sent texts or emails during conversations with their partners. How can I deal with it? Leave it out of the bedroom “iPads and computers have breached the boundary between the home and the bedroom”, according to Professor Wellings of the National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles. Technology, while useful for keeping in touch, can be an intrusion, particularly when people check their messages and updates at bedtime. Because habits die hard, it might be an idea to agree on some rules, like turning off mobiles after 9 pm, or no mobiles and tablets in the bedroom. This might help you both to disconnect from the world, and make space to connect with each other. You may also find that your sleep improves. Look a little closer at why it annoys you If you’ve come through the hidden issues program, you’ll already be quite aware that some issues lie deeper beneath the surface. For example, if you were regularly ignored by your parents as a child, it can make you sensitive to being ignored in your romantic relationships. Even if it’s unintentional, your partner’s distraction may be affecting you far more than they realise. . If you can let your partner know how much it affects you, they may be more inclined to make a conscious effort to turn away from their distractions, and turn towards you. Be honest and keep the language more along the lines of “this is how I feel”, rather than “this is how you make me feel”. It’s a slight shift in language, but it’s helpful to eliminate accusation wherever possible. If you’re the distracted one If you’re aware of your own distractions and want to bring it under more control, it might help to put some boundaries in place. For example, make the active decision not to respond to emails, check messages, or even watch television during meal times. This simple shift in attention – even for just an allocated block of time – will gradually become habit, and could start to improve your day-to-day interactions. There’s also the option of removing the notifications, or even taking the big leap of deleting apps that are unnecessary distractions. Watch television, or don’t Often, putting the television on ends up becoming just another habit that blocks the conversation and engagement you might otherwise have. Try leaving the television off until there’s something specific that you want to watch together. Whether it’s the news, a film, or a series, what matters is that it’s an active joint decision. 
Article | social media, communication, YPc
How to show love in practical ways
When couples have sailed the love boat through the honeymoon phase and out the other side, it’s quite easy to forget about the small loving gestures that used to be automatic. But research has shown us that these loving and affectionate gestures can help couples resolve conflicts and improve relationship quality – which is what this site is all about. What you’re about to see is a list of some of the best ways to communicate love and affection - these came from a study where 4,000+ people shared the gestures that mattered to them the most. Then we’ll explain WHY they work. It’s not a check-list for you, but we do recommend that you look through and have a crack at some of them. Perhaps even print it off, mark down the ones you like, and see how you get on. Action 1 Send a text for no other reason than to say you’re thinking of your partner, or share something specific with them (like an article, a thread, or a GIF). Why?  Because the study showed that ‘touching base’ can be just as important and meaningful a way to show appreciation as long heart-to-heart conversations.   Action 2 Say “thank you” for something you ordinarily wouldn’t. Maybe even something commonplace, like making you dinner. Why?  The study showed us that saying “thank you” was the most valued gesture. That sense of being appreciated and valued is something that many of us need – even if we’re not expressing it. It’s instant, it’s gratifying, and it requires no translation – yet it can be overlooked.   Action 3 Write a love note and leave it somewhere for them to find (it doesn’t need to be a masterpiece). Why? Written forms of appreciation were popular in the study, and nobody cared about whether the words were neatly printed on a fancy personalised card or just jotted on a crumpled scrap of paper. The sentiment matters so much more than the presentation.    Action 4 Run a bath for your partner when they get in from work (maybe have the bath together). Why?  The gestures that gain the most appreciation are usually the silent ones – not the ones that shout “Hey, I did this really romantic thing for you, mwah!” Running a bath is a good one that shows you’ve anticipated their arrival, and you want them to feel comforted as they walk through the door.   Action 5 Put the toothpaste on the toothbrush for them Why? In the study, it was revealed that partners doing “everyday routine tasks” like this were considered the most kind and considerate. Preparing their toothbrush is also subtle and shows that you’re thinking of your partner – even while brushing your teeth.   Action 6 Next time you’re choosing a film, suggest something you know they want to watch. Why? This is another one of those quiet sacrifices that makes a partner feel like they’re being put first. Choosing a film you know they will like (in spite of your own preference) reflects an element of intimate knowledge – meaning the gesture will almost certainly be well-received.   Action 7 Bring them a cup of tea in bed  Why? This is one of the all-time favourites. It silently conveys that you want their day to begin well. It helps them push through the haze of those first few waking minutes with something warm, comforting, and - most importantly – caffeinated. A cup of tea (or a cuppa if you prefer, how very British!) featured as the fourth highest form of appreciation and expression of love by women with children in this study. Interestingly, a cup of tea all by itself even won out over breakfast in bed, so hold the bacon.   Action 8 Do the chore you know your partner hates most (e.g. vacuuming or cleaning the bathroom). Why? Doing a chore that your partner hates shows a certain sacrifice on your part, but it also contributes towards the smooth running of a household – and this was noted as a big deal for all participants.   Action 9 Take over a task that they’re doing, just to give them a break. Why? During the study, women in particular said they really valued getting some time to themselves. Taking a task off your partner’s hands not only gives them a break, but also shows your appreciation by acknowledging that they deserve that break.   Action 10 Tell them you love them and that you’re attracted to them. Why? Actually saying those three little words might seem a little monotonous but, for many people, it’s important to keep being told. Participants noted that the meaning and sincerity of the sentiment mattered a great deal, as well as demonstrations that reinforce that sentiment.   Action 11 Massage their shoulders when they get stressed Why? Massages and foot rubs are selfless and intimate. It’s also worth remembering that when we touch someone, we are automatically being touched back (Gabb, 2011), so both parties are engaging in the moment. Giving a massage without being asked is a tacit acknowledgment on your part that you’re appreciative of their hard work and effort.   Action 12 Sit with your partner, look them in the eye, and ask them how their day was – then do nothing but listen.  Why? Feeling listened to can make people feel cared for and supported – especially men. In the study, fathers noted it as being their second favourite way of being shown appreciation. Even if they’re not saying anything particularly relevant to you, don’t glaze over. Just respond and ask questions.   Action 13 Greet your partner with a kiss when you see them. Why?  The key phrase here is ‘regular, intimate contact’. Although a daily routine like kissing your partner might seem mundane or even old-fashioned, the importance of regular intimate physical gestures was explicitly noted in the study. Also, it’s just nice when you’re partner is happy to see you. Humans can learn from our canine friends on this one – dogs are always excited to see you return, even if you only left for five minutes to hang up the washing. You may not have a tail to wag, but a meaningful kiss hello can go a long way.   Now, let’s practice…  Hopefully, you’ve now got an idea of some small, intimate gestures to try. We recommend that you stick with them (even if it’s just one or two) and put them into action as soon as you can. It’s very easy for these things to be forgotten when life takes over, so it’s helpful to set clear, specific goals for yourself about what you can do and when you can do it. It may be best to start with one or two things that you want to try this very evening, like: “When I go home tonight, I’m going to avoid distractions and really listen to them”. Or you could set yourself a simple ongoing commitment, like: “When I get home from work/college/wherever every day, I’m going to greet my partner with a kiss before I do anything else”. Or even, “If I’m the first person to wake up in the morning, I’ll make them a tea or a coffee”. You might begin to see improvements in your relationship just by repeating some of these actions. By sticking to your plan, your intentions become practices, then practices become habits, and soon you’ll find it all comes a lot more naturally.  Of course, you don’t need to stick to the gestures and actions that we’ve listed here. Every couple is different, and by taking the time to notice what each other really appreciate, your gestures will become personalised and specific. Stay consistent and shake it up every now and again by introducing new actions.
Article | communication, love, YPc
Learn to argue better
Everyone argues, but not everyone argues well. Constructive arguing is something of an art form, and sometimes a good argument that’s handled well can actually help to improve a couple relationship. Whereas if you argue badly, you’re likely to go around in circles and frustrate yourselves into a frenzy until conflict becomes the norm. Bad arguing isn’t healthy for a couple, and too many badly handled arguments can really shake the core of any good relationship, however solid and mature it is. Whatever you’re up against as a couple, getting good at arguing together will help you solve your problems quicker and boost the quality of the relationship. The aim here is to help you do that. After many years of conducting research and looking at relationships under the microscope, here’s the best tips we know of to help you argue well. These tips are not to help you win the argument, but rather, they’re to help you and your partner win each other. 1. Always be cool (ABC) If you only stick to one rule, let it be this one. If you’re not calm, it’s because your emotions have gotten the better of you (in other words, you’re emotionally compromised), which means you’re in no real position to conduct a good argument. Fire fuels fire, so it’s really important to keep each other cool. Poor arguing: “I don’t know who you think you are speaking to me like that... where do you get off…” A better way: “Maybe we should both come back to this when we’re a little calmer. Let’s take ten.” Pro tip: Count to 10 before you react. If you get to 10 and you’re still not calm, remove yourself from the situation and come back when you’ve calmed down. Remember, when things get heated, aggressive or hurtful, you cannot make progress – the whole thing needs a reboot. 2. Don’t retaliate and throw stuff The worst kind of argument is one where both parties are just pelting each other with criticisms and blame. Instead try telling your partner how you feel. Here's what that might look like. Poor arguing: “Why do you make fun of me in public?” “Well you insist on telling that naff joke, it makes everyone feel awkward”. “You always find a way to make me feel like bad about myself.” A better way: “I feel really embarrassed when you make fun of me in public” “I didn’t even realise I was doing that, that wasn’t my intention.” Pro tip: Be conscious that your words can cause irrevocable damage, so choose them carefully. You might be able to apologise later, but you can’t take back what you said. Practice having a retort ready in the chamber and apply the discipline of NOT firing it. As you practice this, you may experience a sense of calm control. 3. Listen – until the penny drops Failing to listen is one of the largest causes of poor arguing. It often happens because when one person is talking, the other person is cocking and loading their next argument. Listening is really about taking the time to understand where they’re coming from. If you don’t take the time to listen, your partner won’t feel heard and will very quickly become annoyed. They probably won’t listen to you in return either.  Poor arguing: “I feel like you just don’t really want to be with me anymo–“ “Do we honestly have to go through this again?” A better way: “I feel like you just don’t really want to be with me anymore. I know you say that you do, but you just don’t seem that interested in me”. “Just to help me understand here; what signals am I giving you to make you feel that I’m not interested in you anymore?” Pro tip: A huge and often underrated part of listening is body language. Even just sitting opposite your partner on the couch and facing them, you’re already communicating that they matter and that you’re ready to listen. Look them in the eye, and acknowledge when they’re making sense. You don’t have to agree, and if you don’t, try to resist the temptation of mentally preparing a comeback. Pro tip: Try to focus more on understanding rather than just hearing them out. That sometimes means asking them more questions about it. 4. Speak for yourself One of the reasons that arguments go sour is because the whole thing becomes a battle of accusations and criticisms. By telling someone how they’ve failed, what they’re doing wrong, or how they’ve messed up – you’re going to make them flare up, even if you’re speaking truth. It’s helpful to take the accusations out of the equation and instead talk about yourself and how their behaviour has affected you. That way, you’re not attacking them or making a judgement on their character. Poor arguing: “You want to be with someone else, just say it”. “So what you’re saying is, you don’t trust me”. “Well you’re such a flirt, and you flirt with other people, so what else do I have to go on?” A better way: “I’m feeling quite insecure at the moment, and I’m afraid that you want to be with someone else“. “Is it something I’m doing to make you feel that way?” “There are a couple of things. I might be just being sensitive, but it looks like you’re behaving in a flirty way with other people.” Pro tip: When you talk, start with “I” rather than “You”.  So instead of “You never help out with chores”, say “I’d really like some more help around the house, I feel like I’m on my own with it”. It’s the same point, but one feels like an attack, and the other feels like a request and the expression of feelings. Pro tip: Try not to assume what your partner is thinking (or worse, TELL them what they’re thinking). By starting everything with “I”, you’re less likely to do that. Speaking for yourself is a habit that is worth developing for any argument with any person. 5. Apologise for your side of things If your partner has attacked you in some way and, say, you snap back at them, it’s still helpful if you apologise for the snap. Even if they don’t apologise for the attack in the first place. This can be tough, but it sets in place an attitude of respect and the taking of one’s own responsibility. By giving some ground, you might be able to change the tone and direction of the entire argument. Poor arguing: “You’re so selfish. You didn’t even let me know where you were.” “Are you my keeper? You don’t need to know where I am 24/7.” A better way: “You’re so selfish. You didn’t even let me know where you were.” “Okay, I’m sorry that I worried you. Maybe we should agree on how often I should check in with you in future. I might not be able to text you as often as you’d like though – I’d like to talk about that.” Pro tip: The earlier you can land your apology, the better. So even if you’ve said something mean a few seconds ago, nip it in the bud and hold your hand up. Hold strong if the apology doesn’t get returned for their side of things. It might not happen, but by humbling yourself, you’ll create an environment where they can. 6. View it through their eyes We’ve all heard the expression “putting yourself in their shoes”. But doing this during an argument is really hard because it requires you to step outside of yourself and all your own feelings for a moment. If you manage to pull it off, you can often see why their behaviour makes sense to them, even if it doesn’t make sense to you. Mastering this can make for some really effective and constructive arguing. Pro tip: In order to really flip your viewpoint, you need to get good at really listening. Listening can help you see what it looks like through their eyes. Use your imagination and think how it would FEEL for your partner. It’s something that needs to be practiced. What we’re talking about here is basically empathy, and empathy is really really helpful in an argument. 7. Show love – even if it’s a minuscule gesture If you’re angry, hurt, or feeling defensive, you might not feel like being kind, affectionate or loving. Naturally you’re on the back foot, and you’ve got fire in your belly. But a simple loving gesture like making a cup of tea can help, because it reminds you both of your shared bond. That can be enough to pour calm on a heated row and help you both want to comfort each other and find resolution. The act of showing love often slips because, in the scheme of things, work obligations, social dynamics and keeping up with life take precedent. But such gestures are actually imperative to relationships, as the following page will demonstrate. Pro tip: The trick here is timing. If you go in for a hug as your partner is mid-tantrum or trying to explain their feelings, your hug might not be well received. But if your love based action is, say, fetching some tissues, putting your phone down, or stopping a game in order to talk properly, it shows that you care and that you want to listen. That can take the edge off a bad argument.
Article | communication, arguments, YPc
“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

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