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Relationship lessons from young people
We’ve looked at the results of a recent survey to see what can be learned from young people’s experiences of being in relationships. Looking back on the roller coaster ride of your own early relationships might fill you with a mix of fondness, amusement, and utter cringing horror. That shouldn’t mean you can’t learn from those experience but, if you can only bear to look through the narrow gaps between your fingers, then these insights from other people’s early experiences might help. Why relationship quality matters Love is complicated and it can take many forms – the love you feel for a sibling, is different from the love you feel for a friend, and the love you feel for your parents is different to the love you feel for a freshly baked marinara pizza. Mmmm, freshly baked marinara pizza. Anyway. When it comes to romantic partners, love gets even more complicated. When two people are in love, they depend on each other for support, but they also have to make each other feel special. Your lover may be your closest confidant, your source of safety and belonging, and the heart of your passion [1]. This isn’t an easy balance to get right. Relationship quality plays a huge part of our health, happiness and wellbeing. We all have ups and downs in life, and it’s the people we share them with that help shape the way we celebrate the good times and cope with the bad. As we enter adolescence, our closest relationships tend to be those we have with our romantic partners [2]. This doesn’t mean you should go rushing into a relationship with the next person who pays you the remotest bit of attention! Remember – it’s the quality of your relationships that makes the difference [1]. Learning from early relationships If you’re young and in a relationship, you might feel like you’ve found the one (and maybe you have – if so, congrats!) or you might be testing the water to find out what you want from relationships in the future. Either way, you can always work on the skills that will help you be a better and happier partner in the future. In a recent study, young people were asked what they’d learned from being in relationships. The most significant lessons these young people had learned from their early relationships included: Sensitivity. It’s important to keep an eye on your partner’s needs, without losing sight of your own. Realistic expectations. In the early days, we present our best sides. As we get more comfortable with each other, our quirks and foibles start to spill out. While this can lead to some relationships breaking down, it can also be a time when couples strengthen their bond as they start to see each other more completely. Honesty. Being honest and trusting your partner are essential components of any successful relationship. Compromise. A relationship is an ongoing process. You will both have to keep checking in on each other’s needs and making compromises, no matter how long you’ve been together. Balance. Many young people highlighted the importance of keeping intense emotions under control. Not just the negative ones like jealousy and anger, but also the overflowing excitement of falling in love in the first place. Freedom. While your romantic partner might also be your best friend and the most important person in your life, you both also need the freedom to be apart from each other. Stay connected to other friends and family members and remind yourself that you still have a life outside of your relationship. Communication. If you’re a regular on Click, you’ll know how much value we place on good communication. This is reflected in young people’s early relationship experiences too [3]. Whether you’re looking back at everything you’ve had to learn the hard way, or looking ahead to your next romantic adventure, take heed of these words of wisdom, and learn from the brave pioneers who went before you. References [1] Viejo, C., Ortega-Ruiz, R., & Sánchez, V. (2015). Adolescent love and well-being: the role of dating relationships for psychological adjustment. Journal of Youth Studies, 18(9), 1219–1236. https://doi.org/10.1080/13676261.2015.1039967 [2] La Greca, A. M., & Harrison, H. M. (2005). Adolescent peer relations, friendships, and romantic relationships: do they predict social anxiety and depression? Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology: The Official Journal for the Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, American Psychological Association, Division 53, 34(1), 49–61. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15374424jccp3401_5 [3] Norona, J. C., Roberson, P. N. E., & Welsh, D. P. (2017). ‘I Learned Things That Make Me Happy, Things That Bring Me Down’: Lessons From Romantic Relationships in Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood. Journal of Adolescent Research, 32(2), 155–182. https://doi.org/10.1177/0743558415605166
Article | dating, new partner
4 min read
Depression during pregnancy
One in ten pregnant women experience mental health problems, and often go undiagnosed until after the baby is born. The pregnancy and parenting charity Tommy’s has produced a video encouraging pregnant women to seek support if they feel anxious or depressed. The short clip follows the story of a woman’s journey through pregnancy as she realises she’s not coping and finds someone to talk to. Around 10-15% of pregnant women experience mental health problems like anxiety and depression [1] but, despite antenatal depression being very similar to postnatal depression, many go undiagnosed and untreated until after the baby is born. Symptoms of anxiety and depression can include feelings of sadness, hopelessness, irritability, and losing interest in activities that used to be fun. Most women feel more emotional than usual during pregnancy, but the video urges you to seek help if you notice that you’re unhappy more than half of the time, or if feelings linger for more than a couple of weeks. When you’re pregnant, it might seem like there’s a pressure on you to feel happy all the time, or to be flushed and glowing with the joys of impending motherhood. If this doesn’t describe your experience, it can be quite distressing and you may even feel guilty for not living up to the expectations of those around you. Your midwife or health visitor will understand. Speak to them and let them know that you need support. You partner, family, and friends can also offer support, by talking things through with you and offering practical support. Let them know you’re not feeling yourself and that you might need some extra support. If you can, hand some of your regular chores over to your partner, or ask someone to help out. Friends love to feel like they are helping, but sometimes need to be given specific tasks like popping to the shops or watering your plants when they come over. Try to eat as healthily as possible, take some gentle exercise, and rest whenever you have the opportunity. Getting regular sleep can have a positive impact on your mood. Take time out to focus on yourself and do something you enjoy. Allow yourself a chance to relax and ease some of the pressure. If you are worried about other areas of your life, such as finances, housing, or your relationship, look into the support available for these specific issues. If you can keep external factors under control, you may find it easier to cope with whatever feelings you are juggling. Keep talking to your partner. Help them to understand what you’re going through, what you’re doing to try and make things better, and what kind of support you need at home. References [1] National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) (2014). Clinical guideline 192: Antenatal and postnatal mental health: clinical management and service guidance https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg192 (Accessed July 2018) [2] Howard L.M, Molyneaux E, Dennis C et al (2014).  Non-Psychotic mental disorders in the perinatal period.  Lancet 384: 1775-1788.
Article | pregnancy, depression, postnatal depression
2 min read
Making the most of relationship counselling
Relationship counselling doesn’t have to be disaster management, and may even be more useful when it’s used to strengthen the foundations of your relationship before things get out of hand. It might seem like relationship counselling is only for couples who are in serious trouble, but couples who seek it out sooner rather than later are more likely to feel the benefits. A study into the effectiveness of relationship counselling found that those who entered into counselling early on when their issues were still manageable were more likely to have positive results [1]. This echoes what we already know getting help before things get out of hand. Around three quarters of the couples in the study experienced benefits to seeing a counsellor. In the cases where it didn’t work, it was often because the issues were already too deeply entrenched to be resolved – particularly in cases of domestic violence, or where one partner was seeking a safe space to end the relationship. How to make the most of relationship counselling If you’re considering relationship counselling, you’re most likely to get things running smoothly again if you start as soon as possible. But, if you’ve gone into counselling when things are already difficult, you can still see an improvement, as long as you approach it with the right attitude. Bear the following in mind as you go into each section: The sessions are as much about listening and learning as about getting your own point across and being heard. You’ll need to look at things from your partner’s point of view to fully understand what’s going on. You’re more likely to solve problems by reflecting on your own behaviour, than criticising your partner’s. So, if you’re finding that conflict is difficult to resolve on your own, go and get some help while the issue is still small. Keep an eye out for warning signs and don’t be afraid to seek help with your relationship. Often, people can worry that going to a counsellor means they are in big trouble, or that it’s the beginning of the end but, if you go early enough, the opposite can be true! References [1] Hunter, C., and Commerford, J. (2015). Relationship education and counselling: Recent research findings in CFCA (33), retrieved from https://aifs.gov.au/cfca/publications/relationship-education-and-counselling
Article | counselling, therapy
2 min read
“A newfound love for my 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. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   I've been single for over 6 months now and I feel over my past relationship. I'm no longer sad or angry about what happened and I've been able to accept that it's gone and I don't particularly want to pick it up where it left off as I wasn't in a happy place mentally towards the end (brought on by battling my mental health issues, balancing work and family, and then also trying to find time for us where I wasn't talking about work, family or mental health) and it was making my boyfriend miserable too. We ended things on a reasonable note even though I was distraught but he couldn't be both my partner and a supporter while I was mentally unstable which I completely understand and respect. He said that one day when I'm mentally alright again and have done all I've wanted to achieve (higher self esteem, physical fitness, confidence) then we could potentially try again as he still loved me and didn't want to lose me which I agreed to at the time and never expected it would happen (I was in a dark place and thought he hated me for some time). Fast forward to now, I have felt myself still feeling love towards my ex which I've been trying to ignore or pass off as platonic but I know it's not. Small things like seeing his name flash up when I get a text, messages that remind me of how we used to talk and how close we were, all sorts of things are making my heart flutter and melt like it did 3 years ago when we were very much in love at the beginning of our relationship and taking on the world side by side. When people mention the future I see him and it's very much unintentional, and when I fantasize about being with a man I always end up thinking of him again and I can't seem to stop it. I don't find anyone attractive or interesting enough to want to talk to them or to start a conversation with them, except for him (who I've luckily not seen in person for most of the breakup period). I want to see if the two of us have a chance to be happy together now that both of us have had time apart to care for ourselves and mature a bit more but I have no clue how to approach this at all. I feel somewhat idiotic for posting such a thing online but I needed to see if anyone else has managed to get back with their ex partner and how they went about doing it (besides the straight up "wanna date" route) and what suggestions you guys have for me in my situation. I want to start fresh with him and not dwell on the past but I need help and advice. Any help anyone can give me is much appreciated!
Ask the community | dating, new partner
“My husband has disconnected from 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. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   I feel selfish posting this, but I can't help but feel like I'm alone in my marriage. My husband is a good person and a decent provider, but he's not there for me emotionally. I know his work environment has gotten pretty toxic in the past year or so (his employer has been forcing older, more long-term employees out the door and hiring younger, cheaper help), and I know he worries about not making enough money if he were to leave and go somewhere less hostile (we would survive, we're not poor), and I have encouraged him to look elsewhere for a less stressful job, but he hasn't done anything about it. Because he is stressed about work all the time, he comes home every night, eats dinner and then either fiddles with his phone surfing the internet or he sits in front of the TV until he goes to bed. We never go anywhere together, unless it's the grocery store or some other mundane thing, we haven't taken a vacation in years, and he never wants to do anything. We have seen a marriage counselor before, but he only went a couple of times until he decided that I was depressed and should continue seeing the counselor alone. Yeah, I AM DEPRESSED because my husband isn't in our relationship. I guess the last straw was today, our 16th anniversary, and he came home from work and flopped down on the couch with his tablet. I purposely sat down with him and he ignored me for about an hour until he mumbled "Happy Anniversary" and went to the fridge to heat up leftovers for dinner. After he ate his leftovers, he watched TV and went to bed. It is my wedding anniversary and I'm sitting on the couch with my cat. I am so angry and sad and hurt by this behavior of my husband that I don't know what to do. When I try to talk to him about it, he either ignores me (the damn TV, the phone or the tablet) or he turns it around on me and complains about how bad his job is and how I have no idea what the working world is like these days. (Um, yeah, actually I do. I worked in corporate America for 2 decades until I left and started my own business 2 yrs ago, which wasn't exactly an easy thing to do, either.) Can someone please give me some advice? I'm so sad right now.
Ask the community | communication, mental health
How to see the best in your partner
Seeing the best in your partner can help keep you both happy, reminding you of the person you fell in love with in the first place, and putting your relationship in a positive light. It’s natural to want to compare your partner to other people but the way you do it can make a significant difference to how you feel about your relationship. One study found that comparing your partner to someone else can be a positive experience as long as you find a way to make peace with the comparison [1]. Making comparisons is one of the ways we make sense of the world. We choose our partners because we like them more than we like other people, so it’s understandable that we would keep comparing them to others. To take a practical example, if you notice that your partner isn’t as good at tidying up around the house as your best friend’s partner, you might start to find them lacking. But, if you accept that perhaps your partner doesn’t have as much free time as your friend’s partner, or that you’re happy to do the majority of the tidying, then you might be more willing to let it go. This kind of justification can help you to see your partner in a more positive light. It’s when you don’t, or can’t, justify the negative comparisons that you risk feeling more stressed and getting into arguments. One of the things that affects the way we’re able to make these kinds of justifications is the way we view our role in the relationship. If you see your relationship as a unit, and refer to yourselves as ‘we’ and ‘us’, rather than ‘I’ or ‘me’, you may be more likely to compare your partner favourably to others, and let things go. This is known as ‘self-other overlap’ and helps you see the best in your partner. When you talk to your friends about what you’ve been up to lately, try to notice whether you say ‘I’ or ‘we’. Saying ‘we’ might just be the key to seeing your partner more positively next time you find yourself comparing them to somebody else. References [1] Thai, S., Lockwood, P. (2015). Comparing You = Comparing Me: Social Comparisons of the Expanded Self in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 41 (7).
Article | communication, trust
2 min read
One simple change to improve your sex life
If you are among the many couples who put so much pressure on themselves to have amazing sex that you are avoiding it all together, one simple change could make all the difference. In a poll of 6,000 people, nearly half said they were happy with their sex lives. However, that leaves more than half of us wanting something more. Just over half said they had not had sex at all in the last month. Researchers involved in the study suggested that simply changing your attitude can make all the difference to how happy you feel about your sex life. Many couples say they want sex to be more spontaneous but, due to the nature of our busy modern lives, it’s sometimes necessary to plan for our intimate moments. This may not be such a bad thing, especially as it can reduce the pressure you’re putting on yourselves, and help you enjoy the sex you are having. Another easy way to change your attitude is to recognise the good things you already have. Rather than trying to live up to sex you see on TV, or what you imagine other people might be doing, just allow yourself to enjoy the reality of your own relationship. Remember also that sex doesn’t always have to mean intercourse – it all counts, and the important thing is that you both have a good time. If you’re very busy or exhausted after a long day, sometimes just an intimate cuddle can be enough to help you feel close and remind each other of the connection you share. Psychosexual therapist Cate Campbell says: “It’s sad that so few people are sexually satisfied and put pressure on themselves to perform. Noticing what is going well, rather than dwelling on problems, is quite difficult when we’re all bombarded with messages about how sex ‘ought’ to be. “Sex definitely doesn’t have to be disappointing – there's plenty that can turn your situation around so you can enjoy a sustained, fulfilling sex life. What constitutes a satisfying sex life can vary wildly from one person to the next, so working out what makes you tick is a great starting point”.
Article | sex, communication
Managing handovers with your ex-partner
If you are feeling awkward or upset at the prospect of facing your ex, then handovers can be very difficult. You may have to exercise some self-control just to stay calm.If you still have very raw feelings about your ex, you may be tempted to use handovers as an opportunity to speak your mind. Keep in mind that children are very sensitive to the feelings and attitudes around them and that they will pick up on conflict between their parents. For your children’s sakes, it’s important to try and make handovers as pleasant as possible.Some handover etiquette: Be courteous. Turn up on time - let the other parent know if you are delayed. Make sure the children have everything they need. Keep difficult conversations away from the children. If you are struggling with this, consider alternative ways of managing the handovers so that your children are protected. Dealing with change over time Transitions are difficult for everyone, especially in the early days. Coming face-to-face with your ex and saying goodbye to your children can bring up some very difficult feelings. It can help to have something planned for the time immediately following the handover so that you can remain upbeat. While it’s hard now, you may eventually come to value the opportunity to have some space to yourself.Children have their own feelings to cope with at handover time. They will need time to settle down, adjust to being in a different home, and get used to their mum or dad not being there. Transitions can be sad reminders to children that their parents aren't together anymore and it's not unusual for young children to come home from a weekend with the other parent in a bad mood. Understanding this can help you manage your expectations, and cope with any changes in your child's behaviour.Follow this link for further information on children in the middle after separation.
Article | parenting apart, ex-partner
2 min read
Mediation Information Assessment Meetings
Attending a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) is now a requirement for most people wishing to take divorce proceedings to court.Before you can start court proceedings over money, property, possessions or arrangements for children, you must usually have attended a MIAM. These meetings are designed to offer help and useful advice. How MIAMs work At the meeting, a mediator will try to work out if mediation can help both parties reach an agreement. Depending on your preference, you can attend the meeting alone or with your husband, wife or civil partner. During the meeting, you’ll be able to find out more about mediation and ask questions about the process. They can also give you advice on other services that may be able to help you. After the MIAM After the meeting, if you and the mediator feel that mediation can help you reach an agreement, you can start mediation sessions. If you are not going to start mediation sessions and you decide to apply to court instead, the mediator will need to sign the court form. When you won't be expected to have a MIAM The court won’t expect you to have attended a mediation meeting if: A mediator doesn’t think the case is suitable for mediation and has said so within the past four months. Either of you has made an allegation of domestic violence against the other within the past 12 months and police investigations or civil proceedings were started. Your dispute is about money and either of you is bankrupt. You don’t know where your husband, wife or civil partner is. You want to apply for a court order but for specific reasons don’t intend to give your husband, wife or civil partner any notice. The court application is urgent because someone’s life or physical safety is at risk or a child is at risk of significant harm. The order is about a child who is already involved with social services because of concerns over their protection. You’ve contacted three mediators within 15 miles of your home and are unable to get an appointment with any of them within 15 working days. Source: www.gov.uk
Article | mediation, divorce
3 min read
Marriage preparation
Religious weddings have often included a tradition of premarital counselling for couples, ranging from a day of personal exploration, to months of in-depth marriage preparation. As civil ceremonies overtake religious ceremonies in popularity, we offer a few examples of marriage preparation available in the UK.Click is not responsible for the content of external links and sites. While every effort is made to ensure the quality and content of external sites, no responsibility or liability is taken for external content. Bristol Community Family Trust http://www.2-in-2-1.co.uk/services/bcft/ Bristol Community Family Trust (BCFT) is a non-profit charity focused on the prevention of family breakdown. BCFT have been running marriage, relationship and mentoring courses since 1996. Insight is for couples who are engaged, recently married, or just thinking about it. Courses run every month, for couples getting married or newlyweds, and include a day of PREP skills training in the classroom followed by three to six private evenings going through the FOCCUS questionnaire with a mentor couple. BCFT also runs courses every month to train mentors. Mentors are ordinary non-expert married couples who want to make a difference. Couples getting married can suggest their own friends as mentors or accept mentors provided by BCFT. Care for the Family http://www.careforthefamily.org.uk/ Care for the Family is a national charity which aims to promote strong family life. The charity runs three different marriage preparation courses: 21st Century Marriage- an eight-session, DVD-based course which couples may find particularly relevant if they have already been living together for some time. Marriage by Design– a one-day course led by a licenced facilitator, presented in an informal and relaxed manner. From this step forward- this unique marriage preparation course will help you to build a strong relationship on which to build your stepfamily. Couples can use this course at home with or without the help of a facilitator. Marriage Care http://www.marriagecare.org.uk/how-we-help/marriage-preparation/ Marriage Care is a charity operating across England and Wales. Volunteers are mainly, though not exclusively, drawn from within the Catholic community. Couples can attend a group course or choose to complete the FOCCUS Inventory which is designed for use with individual couples. The Marriage Preparation Course http://themarriagecourses.org/try/the-marriage-preparation-course/ The Marriage Preparation Course is part of Alpha and, whilst the course is based on Christian principles, it is designed for all couples with or without a church background. You do not need to be getting married in a church to attend the course. The course takes place over five evenings and covers communication, commitment, resolving conflict, keeping love alive and shared goals and values.All participants are required to complete the FOCCUS questionnaire, which is a self-diagnostic inventory designed to help you learn more about yourselves and your relationship. Prepare-Enrich Programme http://www.prepare-enrich.co.uk/ The Prepare-Enrich programme helps couples prepare for marriage, enrich their relationship, or review and improve their co-parenting by taking stock of their strengths and growth areas. Facilitators help couples develop key relationship skills and communicate better on important topics. The Church of England http://www.yourchurchwedding.org/youre-welcome/preparing-for-marriage.aspx Tips from the Church of England on how to speak to your Vicar about marriage preparation. 
Article | marriage, religion
4 min read
Relationships and going to university
Starting college or university is a big life change. If, like many young students, this is the first time you are leaving home, it might be an exciting and daunting time. The prospect of studying, living, and partying in a new place with new people could fill you with a powerful mix of emotions.But nothing dampens the excitement of a new start like an existing relationship. If you’re in a long-term relationship, or even if you’ve just started seeing someone over the summer, it can be hard to know how to handle a move to college or university.If you’re both moving away to study, you’ll be meeting new people; if one of you is staying at home, it could bring up a whole other set of challenges. The impending change might force you to assess the relationship. You might start wondering what they future holds, and if you can cope with a long distance relationship. Talk it out If you and your partner haven’t talked about your plans, it’s worth initiating a conversation. Have a think about your hopes and worries, and talk to you partner about how you’re feeling. Ask them how they feel about the situation– their answer might surprise you, so be prepared to listen to whatever they have to say. Try a long distance relationship If you and your partner are confident that your relationship is strong enough to last, then you can try having a long distance relationship. Many couples manage this successfully, staying in touch by text, phone or email during the term and catching up in the holidays. Depending on how far apart you are, you may be able to visit each other more frequently.How often you communicate is something you’ll have to work out together. Some couples choose to have set times, which can help avoid conflict about who’s turn it is to call whom. When you are studying in a new place, you will need to take time to pursue new interests, make new friends and, of course, study. It’s important to make the most of these new experiences, but it can be difficult for your partner. They may feel left out or worried that you’ll forget about them.It may take a few goes to get it right, but once you start communicating with each other at long distance, you’ll find there’s a balance that works for you. If you can’t visit each other during term time, plan something special for the holidays so you’ve got something to look forward to. Think carefully before making any big decisions It can be easy to get caught up in the passion of the present. You may be tempted to choose a university that’s closer to your partner, or even give up your studies altogether. It’s important to remember that this stage of your education could have profound consequences for your future. If your relationship is strong enough, it will survive the distance. Your education may not be quite so forgiving. Stop think about which matters most to you before you commit to a decision.
Article | big changes, long distance
3 min read
Dealing with disapproval as a same-sex couple
Although attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people and same-sex couples seem to be becoming more positive, many LGBTQ+ people still face a considerable amount of stigma, discrimination and prejudice.Same-sex couples often face unique additional difficulties which can include coming out, negative reactions from family and friends, fear of public displays of affection and homophobic abuse.Here, three same-sex couples tell their stories:  Kat (21) and Carly (20) Kat and Carly have been together for a year. Kat is out to her immediate family and they are accepting of her sexuality and her relationship with Carly.While being very happy in their relationship, Kat is not entirely comfortable with her sexuality. She keeps her relationship hidden from other extended family members including her aunt, to whom she introduced Carly as a friend. Kat worries about holding hands in public.Carly, on the other hand, is completely comfortable with her sexual identity and public displays of affection. Carly is helping Kat face her fears by holding hands in public, but she remains very aware of her surroundings and the reactions of others. Brendan (24) and Josh (23) Brendan and Josh have been together for three years. They have experienced verbal abuse more than once while holding hands in public. This has mostly happened on weekend nights. However, on one daytime occasion, as Brendan and Josh were walking hand-in-hand, a man in a white van slowed down and shouted homophobic abuse and expletives at them. Brendan shared their experience of this upsetting event on Twitter and received lots of positive support. Both Brendan and Josh say that homophobic abuse will not stop them from being themselves and holding hands in public. Lindsay (30) and Dana (31) Lindsay and Dana have been together for two years. Lindsay’s parents reacted very negatively to her coming out. They were verbally abusive, equating homosexuality with paedophilia, and disowning their daughter. This experience was heart-breaking and emotional for the couple, and Lindsay says it was the hardest six months of her life. Despite this, the couple feel they are stronger because they got through it by communicating, spending time together and seeking support from their close friends. Lindsay has since been able to repair the relationship with her parents to some extent, but they don’t associate with Dana much, which puts pressure on them both. Lindsay has accepted that her parents don’t like her relationship and believes her parents are missing out by not knowing Dana. These case studies come from a PhD research project by Danni Pearson of the Open University. The research is entitled ‘The Trials, Tribulations and Celebrations of Young Same-Sex Couples in Long-term Relationships’ and explores how young same-sex couples experience and sustain their relationships. The research is also connected to the Enduring Love project.
Article | same-sex, LGBTQ+
3 min read
“Loss of intimacy”
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 husband and I have been married 3 yrs with 2 kids together (4 kids total). Our sex life has always been great but for the past year it hasnt been. We will have sex every now and then. Maybe every 2 weeks and sometimes every month or longer..I started to become curious as to why he lost interest and noticed he was watching porn on his phone. I knew he did off and on but noticed how often he was doing it for the past few months...he would even look at this stuff during his lunch breaks at work awhile telling me he was taking a nap. His addiction affected our marriage because he never desired sex with me anymore but every now and then. We got into a heated arguement one time and he admitted he had a problem. We decided to take internet off his phone completely so he wouldnt be tempted anymore but he still isnt being intimate with me... the sex still isnt happening as often and when I confront him he swears up and down there is nothing wrong with our sex life, with me or anything that he is just lazy. He will only initiate sex if I have complained that day about it. I finally decided that I wasnt going to complain or ask him for it anymore because I didnt want to get my Hope's up that we would have sex more...I dont know what else to do
User article | intimacy, sex
How addiction affects your relationship
A substance use problem often leads to changes in a person’s behaviour that can be damaging to a relationship. They may be emotional and unpredictable. They may feel ashamed or afraid of the consequences of their addiction being discovered. They will sometimes lie to conceal the true extent of it. If this sounds like your partner, you may wonder what impact it is likely to have on your relationship. Secrecy and deceit can cause a breakdown of trust in the relationship. As the partner of an addicted person, you may feel suspicious of the reasons for your partner’s behaviour. You might also feel confused, scared, or angry at the change in your partner and the unpredictable situation. “The worst thing when I discovered their addiction was that I’d been lied to”. A partner with a substance use problem may have highs and lows – they may be happy and positive one moment, and anxious, irritable, or depressed the next. They may be preoccupied and pay less attention to their partner. This unpredictable behaviour and mood can often cause arguments. If an argument starts every time you try to discuss the problem, both of you may give up trying to talk, leading to a breakdown in communication. A distance can grow between you, and there may be a loss of interest in sex or intimacy. “If I try to explain why I started drinking it turns into a row. It’s easier not to talk to each other at all”. However, problematic substance use is not always hidden. You might know that your partner has a problem but feel like you are walking on eggshells as you try to keep the peace. You might also fear that, if you rock the boat, you will drive you partner further into their addiction. Sometimes, people will take on more responsibility in the home, with childcare and finances, to compensate for their partner becoming unreliable. You might feel you have to take control of everything and even become a ‘parent’ to your partner. Children in the family can also suffer. The parent with the addiction may become withdrawn and lose interest in family activities. The other partner may be distracted because of juggling extra responsibilities. Children are often aware of arguments and tension in the home and feel scared and confused. If they get used to seeing addictive behaviour, they may learn and develop similar behaviour themselves. What to do when dealing with a substance use problem Facing up to a substance use problem can feel hard, as it often makes the problem seem more real. But, in a relationship where one person has a problem, both partners may be in denial. If you both feel powerless to make changes, it can feel easier to pretend nothing is happening. You may feel like you can’t talk to family and friends about the problem. You may blame yourself or just feel embarrassed that outsiders will see your partner or your relationship in a negative way. Your partner may have asked you not to tell anyone. There are then two people feeling very scared, resentful, and lonely within the relationship. Talking to an unbiased person outside of your relationship can feel a real relief and a step toward change. If you are experiencing problems in your relationship as the result of addiction, it may be worth seeking professional help. Online relationship advice such as our listening room, support, information, and counselling can be very valuable in many cases. If you are experiencing domestic violence or any form of abuse in your relationship or family, it may be advisable for you to seek support from a specialist agency. If the problem is long term, involves cutting or physical harm, or has been triggered by traumatic life events, it may be advisable to seek face-to-face counselling via a specialist agency or your GP. If you are worried about someone close to you, you may find it helpful to check out Relationship Realities which features real stories by real people who are affected by alcohol and drug use problems.
Article | addiction
4 min read
Moving on from addiction as a couple
The first step to moving on from a substance use problem is facing up to things together. When substance use is a problem in your relationship, you both need to take the same first step – you and your partner have to be honest with yourselves and each other that the problem is there. If it feels like the behaviour is just beginning to get out of hand, like drinking too much every Friday night, it may still be possible for the person responsible to try to cut down, particularly with support from their partner. However, if it feels like you are past the ‘take it or leave it’ stage, or communication between you has broken down, it may be time to seek professional advice, information, or counselling. It is often valuable for both partners to seek support. If you are not the partner with the problem, you may wonder why you need counselling. Living with an addicted partner can cause personal stresses and strains. You may have bottled things up, worried that you might upset your partner or make things worse. Counselling provides a safe, confidential space to talk through your thoughts and feelings. Attending counselling as a couple can be a great step forward. It can allow space and time for you to be honest with each other about your thoughts and feelings and to deal with problems that may have arisen in your relationship through the addictive behaviour. The counsellor will make sure you both have space to say what you need to say, and will support you in improving communication with each other. Often, one of the biggest hurdles to overcome after a substance use problem is the betrayal of trust. As the partner of an addicted person, you may have been on the receiving end of broken promises before. You may wonder, ‘How can I be certain this time it will be different?’. If the problem was hidden, it may feel harder to trust your partner, and you fear a relapse being kept from you. The partner who has stopped their behaviour may feel frustrated at the lack of trust, wondering, “Will I ever be treated as a responsible adult again?”. It may take time, but you can work together to rebuild trust. Every relationship is different. You should only try these suggestions if you think they might be right for you. Online advice, support, information and counselling can be very valuable in many cases. Sharing your story with the Click community may help you feel less isolated. If you are experiencing domestic violence or any form of abuse in your relationship or family, it would be advisable to seek support from a specialist agency. If the addiction problem is long term or involves drugs, alcohol, cutting or physically harming yourself, or has been triggered by traumatic life events, it may be advisable to seek face-to-face counselling from a specialist agency or via your GP. If you are worried about someone close to you, you may find it helpful to check out Relationship Realities which features real stories by real people who are affected by alcohol and drug use problems.
Article | addiction
3 min read
“When do I give up?”
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 on and off for the last six years. Most recently we have been together for a little over a year and at one point he moved hundreds of miles away from family and friends to be with me. However, recently we got into a fight which resulted in him moving back home the next day and us breaking up. It was an amicable split and I thought it was really the end of things because we both agreed we loved each other, but it just wasn't working. After a few weeks apart he texted me saying he wants to work on things and figure out how to be together. I'm frustrated beyond belief because I'm now in a terrible situation. We are back to being in a long distance relationship, and my friends and family are all happy that he's out of my life, because I haven't told them yet. He wants to pursue counseling and work on things together. I'm having a hard time because I really do love this man and want a future with him, but I don't want to go back to the way things have been in the past. In addition, we're only 20 and I worry that this is too young to already be needing counseling in the relationship for trust and communication issues. My question is, do I invest a little more time into the relationship in the hopes that we can resolve some of these things through counseling? Or is it finally time to let go?
Ask the community | communication, long distance
“Lazy, unemployed partner”
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 (28) and I (22) have just moved in together, whilst also moving 150 miles away from my family (He as no connection to his). We have been in the new area for 3 months, but together for 3 years. However my partner still has no job. We are currently renting and my income pays for everything (barely). However I have recently sustained an injury resulting in me being off work for 2 months, and without anything to do. We are barely covering costs, and if it weren't for my car being written off a few weeks ago, we would not be able to meet our bills for the next two months. I have asked him on several occasions when he plans to get a job, and the short response I receive is "I've done a few applications today, but I don't want to do any more". I ask him if he is going to go to the agencies that are local and his response is "at some point". At the moment I am becoming increasingly stressed and anxious that he will not be "paying his way" so to speak. He presently sits on his laptop all day watching videos on YouTube and playing games. Very rarely does he take an interest in what I am doing nor seems to be making an effort to amount to anything. I have on several occasions tried talking to him about the money situation and that I cannot afford to support us both, but then I get calls from lawyers saying otherwise (from my car accident and a personal injury claim) I don't know what to do, or even to raise the topic again as I only receive coldness and short blunt answers in return. Many advice?
Ask the community | communication, finance
How getting married affects your finances
Getting married doesn’t affect your credit rating, but it may have some financial implications that you haven’t yet considered. If you have a joint account or a shared mortgage or bank loan, your credit rating will be tied to your partner’s, and affected by any changes. Most couples have at least one of these financial ties before tying the proverbial knot, so the act of getting married is unlikely to change any of this. Hannah Maundrell, editor in chief of money.co.uk, says: “Your credit record won’t be affected just because you say, ‘I do’; it’s not until you apply for joint accounts that you become financially linked. It will impact your entitlement to Tax Credits though, and you may also get tax back if you qualify for Marriage Allowance; so, it’s worth telling HMRC [and] insurance providers – this is definitely worth doing because it could mean you pay less for cover!” Marriage Allowance was introduced by the government in April 2015. What this means is that if you earn less than £11,500 and your spouse or civil partner earns more than that (but less than £45,000), then you may be eligible to transfer some of your tax-free allowance over to them. This guide will help you learn how to take advantage of this. You can also make tax-free gifts to your partner. For example, if one of you receives a financial inheritance, you can give a portion of this to your spouse without being taxed. You may also be able to cut the tax you are charged on your savings interest. When you earn interest in a regular savings account, you are charged tax according to your income tax bracket. If your spouse is in a lower tax bracket than you, or if they aren’t a tax-payer, storing your savings in their name can save you money on the interest you earn. Of course, it’s very important that you trust your partner before taking this on! If you have a will, it will become invalid as soon as you get married, so you will need to update it or write a new one. Hannah Maundrell says: “Tying the knot doesn’t mean that your every worldly possession is half your partner’s… while you’re alive at least. The situation is very different if you die, so you need to update your will as a priority because your old one will be invalidated. It does mean that you could earn more interest on your savings if you trust them with your money and they’re in a lower income tax band than you”.
Article | finance, marriage
3 min read
“I cheated on 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. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   Last week my husband was in Korea to rap at a concert. i know very well he doesn't condone men in our home without him there. My best friend's ex called me and ask if i could discuss how to charm my friend back to him? l told him my hubby was out of town on business so i could not have him in my home. We met at local coffee shop. i sat across from him and he immediately sat next to me and put his arm around my shoulder and rested his hand on my breast. he is much bigger than me. i pulled away and admonished him about going overboard in familiarity. he said he noticed i smiled sexy at him last time he chatted with my hubby. he put his arm back around me and kissed me passionately. My husband was gone three days and i lustfully responded and so did not resist even knowing i should. he snapped a selfie clearly showing his hand caressing my breast. he said that he would not share it because he really liked me. we continued to make out and ended up going all the way at his pad including a couple of nudies after intercourse. i found out he knew my hubby was out of town so took advantage of me and hated my girlfriend anyway for breaking up with him.he had no interest in being with her just an avenue to get me alone. My husband is a great provider and loves my son and me. i feel so ashamed of my momentary loss of control with his best friend. i very scared if he found what he would do to me and his best friend. i think he would get very physical and emotional to both of us. i gone church twice and confessed my sins but still feel guilt. i don't think i will cheat again but not completely sure. should i bury this sin or disclose to husband or best friend? How can i know if i will be weak again? i asked him to delete naughty selfies and he agreed. i think from his perspective he would keep them as hot memories of bedding me and probably share to friends he bagged me when my husband was away.
Ask the community | trust, cheating
The father-child bond
Some dads fall in love with their babies as soon as they see them, but that isn’t everyone’s experience. If your baby seems like a stranger, you needn’t panic. Love at first sight is by no means common and, like all relationships, the bond between father and child takes time to develop. Lots of new dads feel under pressure to make all the right noises, but the reality of fatherhood can be different to your expectation. You may feel like a bit of a spare part too, particularly in the first few weeks when it seems to be all about mother and baby. Though it may be tough to admit to it, a little jealousy is completely natural too. Your bond with your child will grow as you spend more time together and get to know each other better. This will happen naturally over time but there are some things you can do to speed the process along. It may seem obvious, but try to keep in mind that you are dealing with another human being. Your baby has its own personality and moods, and that character will soon shine through. For many fathers, it doesn’t become clear how much personality babies are born with until the birth of their second child, and the revelation that they are not the same. So, how do you get to know a new born baby whose whole world seems to revolve around their mum? Here are some top tips: Give yourself some credit. Don’t be put off by the fact that most baby products and services are aimed at mothers. Be proud of the important role you play in your baby’s life. Don’t worry about how you’re supposed to feel. Becoming a dad is a shock to the system. Let yourself feel whatever you feel. Talk to your partner or a trusted friend; or, ask a professional like your health visitor, or someone from your local Children’s Centre. You could also make a post on Click, as there may be someone reading who has been through something similar to what you’re going through now. Take part in the baby’s routine. Get involved with feeding, burping, bathing, cuddling, carrying, changing nappies, and so on. Your involvement with the baby can just as significant as you make it, and this quality time will help you get to know each other. Be silly. Sing to your baby, and dance around to your favourite tunes. Invent games, and explore your inner child. You will soon learn what makes your baby smile, and when you do you won’t be able to stop. Smile at your baby. It sounds obvious but there is very little more rewarding than seeing your baby smiling toothlessly back at you. Hold your baby. Don’t shy away from physical contact. Having a warm baby sleep on your chest is a great way to relax. Cuddles and tickles help build bonds too.
Article | fathers, baby
3 min read
Friendships are good for your relationship
It’s great to love spending time with your partner and feeling like two peas in a pod, but mixing with other couples and spending leisure time away from your partner can be a positive strengthening force for your relationship. Having happy and supportive friendships with other couples can make your relationship more exciting and more fulfilling. It can make you and your partner feel more attracted to each other, giving you a chance to experience how other couples interact and resolve conflict, and helping towards a better understanding of relationships in general [1]. But, couples shouldn’t necessarily just rely on the friends they have in common. A study looking into Facebook friends [2] revealed that it wasn’t the couples who had lots of digital friends in common who had the longest lasting relationships or the most positive interactions. It was the couples whose friends were not connected to each other whose relationships appeared strongest [3]. It’s important to have your own friends, and even to spend some quality time with them away from your partner. Couples who pursue their own activities with friends and alone, as well as spending time with their partner, are tend to be more satisfied with their relationship [4]. Socialising and having friendships outside of your relationship is an integral part of maintaining your individual mental and physical wellbeing. Now it looks like we know they are good for the health of our relationships too. So get organising some double dates and some fun with friends, because time outside of the cocoon of your coupledom seems to be very satisfying for both partners. References [1] University of Maryland Baltimore. (2012, January 13). Couples' friendships make for happier marriages, relationships. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120113211028.htm [2] Backstrom, L., and Kleinberg, J. (2013). Romantic Partnerships and the Dispersion of Social Ties: A Network Analysis of Relationship Status on Facebook. Cornell University. Retrieved from https://arxiv.org/pdf/1310.6753v1.pdf [3] Lohr, S. (2013). Researchers Draw Romantic Insights From Maps of Facebook Networks. New York Times. 28 October, 2013. [4] Crawford, D.W., Houts, R. M., Huston, T. L., and George, L.J. (2002). Compatibility, Leisure, and Satisfaction in Marital Relationships. Journal of Marriage and Family, 64 (2), pages 433–449
Article | friends
2 min read
“Caught out cheating”
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 went on a diving trip last year where I left my partner and her children at home. Whilst on this holiday I put sun lotion on another female's back and when I got home was asked why I was in pictures with this certain girl, I told her I didn’t know why we had just been in the same social group whilst on this holiday. She then asked if anything had happened, I lied and told her nothing had happened even though I had put sun lotion on her back. Few months later I exchanged flirty messages with this girl and one other I was working with at the time. I was caught out after my little girl was playing on my phone. My partner has tried to deal with this understanding that I would never do it again but she can’t trust me, and is no longer happy in the relationship, so she’s asked me to give her some space and move out for a bit, telling me that for me to be serious about the relationship I would do it, I have agreed and respect her enough to do as she has asked. However now I feel alone, I feel since I was caught out we’ve lost our communication in the relationship, so as well as her not trusting me I feel I need to be able to communicate with her better, but how do I get back to where we were happy in our relationship. I wasn’t expecting her to trust me straight away but I want her to be able to trust me again, I love her, and she tells m e she loves me.
Ask the community | trust, jealousy, cheating
“Married with 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. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   I have been married for over 10 years and together for around 18 years. We also have two children together. I have always been faithful and never strayed and nor has my partner. Over the past couple of years our sex life has gone downhill somewhat to the point it is now it probably once every two to three months and when we do it, its nothing special. I am finding myself spending less and less together and most days go by without even such a kiss or I love you anymore. We don't argue much and do generally get along pretty well together. Almost two years ago I joined a local amateur dramatics group and have done a few performances, I met a girl there and we get on great. I will admit I am attracted to her. The current show we are doing involves a long kissing scene and passionate cuddling etc, we are still in rehearsals at the moment but even during the read-through I could feel my heart racing at the thought of this kiss. We have now practised the scene a few times (yes my partner does know about this) and it is now all I can think about. I haven't felt so excited for a very long time now and long for the next rehearsal so we can kiss again. I sort of sense my fellow actor enjoys it as much a I do but she too is married and we haven't really discussed it and nothing has happened outside of rehearsals. It is tearing me up inside a millions thoughts going through my head, part of me wants to ask her about how the kissing scene makes her feel and let her know how I feel too. Or is it that I am longing to be loved something that has been missing from our relationship for a long time now. Your advice welcome.
Ask the community | someone else, flirting
Letting go of other people’s stress
You may have experienced days at work when your colleagues have been stressed, and you’ve started to feel that way too. This can also happen at home when your partner gets stressed. When people around you have strong feelings, it’s easy to soak them up and take them on as your own. You might even unconsciously adopt the body language and tone of voice from people close to you. If your partner is tense and agitated, you may become more inclined to dwell on your own troubles. This second-hand stress can make it harder for you both to relax and you might start arguing more. Long-term stress, when not addressed, can lead to greater problems like depression and relationship breakdown. So, what can you do when a partner, friend or colleague is making you feel stressed and exhausted? Take a mental step back. Breathe deeply and try to separate their stress from your feelings. You’ll find it becomes easier to recognise and acknowledge their stress without taking it onboard yourself. Walk away. Sometimes you just need to remove yourself from the situation until you feel more able to help. Leave the room, make a cup of tea, look out of the window, or even take a short walk until you feel calmer yourself. Offer support. If your partner is stressed, listen to what they have to say. Try to remember that a comforting ear may be more useful than offering practical solutions. Your partner may just need some stress relief before they get to a place where they can solve their own problems. Look for the positives. Remind your partner that they can lean on you for support and try to help them see the positives. Bring the topic of conversation back to something more light-hearted and personal, like planning something fun to do at the weekend or remembering a nice experience you recently shared. Stay calm. There’s no value in getting wound up or shouting at your partner if they are stressed. The calmer you are, the more easier it will be for them to see a way through to letting go of their own stress. Do something soothing. If you do feel yourself catching your partner’s stress, do something comforting like taking a bath, reading a book or listening to some relaxing music. This can help clear your head so you can support your partner better. Do you think stress is ‘catching’? Do you find it easy to keep your own feelings separate, or have you found yourself exhausted by your partner or colleague’s stress?
Article | stress
2 min read
What is arbitration?
Arbitration is an alternative to court where a separating couple appoints an arbitrator to make a decision on any financial or property-related issues.   It is different to mediation and collaborative practice because it will fix a final and legally binding outcome to the case (usually referred to as a ‘final award’), rather than the decision-making resting with you and your ex-partner. As with mediation and collaborative practice, you can’t be forced into arbitration. You must either agree who will arbitrate the issue, or have an arbitrator appointed from an independent panel. Once both of you have decided to use arbitration, the only way to stop the process before the final award is if you both agree. Generally, there is an initial meeting where information is given about arbitration and, if you both want to use it, the steps to the final award are fixed. Because the process is tailored to the issues involved, it is usually very much faster than the court process and can be a lot less expensive. The arbitrator can deal with very specific financial aspects of the separation, or with all of them. This is up to you. Arbitration is confidential and the time and location of hearings are flexible. Who are arbitrators? Arbitrators are usually barristers, solicitors, or retired judges who have trained and qualified as a family law arbitrator with the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. They also must work to a set code of ethics as family law arbitrators. How much does arbitration cost? The cost of arbitration varies across the country and from arbitrator to arbitrator. If you choose to go down the route of arbitration, the cost will be something you and your ex-partner need to consider. Do I need representation? It is possible and sometimes easier to present your own case in arbitration than at court. The procedure is more informal but there are benefits in having support and advice through the process. You should bear this in mind if you are thinking about family law arbitration as it would be an additional cost. How do I find an arbitrator? You can search for arbitrators via the Institute of Family Law Arbitrators. What are the risks? There are risks with an appeal process, just as there is at court. Where an appeal process is needed, such as if the arbitrator has not acted properly or within the rules of arbitration, enforcement of the award may involve additional steps and therefore further costs. The risks and benefits are something that will be explained and can be considered at the first meeting so that you can decide if arbitration might work for both of you and your circumstances.
Article | arbitration, divorce
3 min read
Children and non-resident parents
Children benefit from being in regular contact with their non-resident parents but the frequency and quality of this contact can decline over time. A research paper published by The Ministry of Justice looked into the how a child's wellbeing is affected by the relationship they have with the parent they don’t live with. The report also looked at the courts’ involvement in settling contact and financial arrangements and the impact these can have on a child’s outcomes as they grow up. The study followed a group of children whose parents had separated by the time they were seven years old. It looked at levels of court involvement in parental separation, and the frequency and quality of the contact between the children and the non-resident parents. Researchers then looked at outcomes for children when they were aged eleven, paying particular attention to: Subjective wellbeing (children’s moods and emotions). Antisocial behaviours, like drinking, smoking, or breaking the law. Social and behavioural problems. How good they were at making decisions around risky behaviour. Contact declines over time According to the report, the level of contact between children and their non-resident parents tends to decline over time, in terms of both frequency and quality. Among children of separated parents, the ones that had the best outcomes at age eleven were those who had had the most contact with their non-resident parents. This can be harder to manage if you’re struggling financially, but it’s important to try and maintain regular quality time together. Even after a separation, you and your ex-partner continue to have a relationship as co-parents, so it’s really important to look after this relationship in as supportive a way as possible. Put your children first and, wherever safe, try to ensure they spend time with both parents. If you’re a non-resident parent and you feel like you don’t get enough time with your children, there are a few helpful things you can work on: Try to resolve your differences with your ex-partner, using external support like mediation where necessary. If you can’t resolve your differences, try to keep your disputes and conflict away from the children. Draw up a parenting plan. Stick to the agreed arrangements, particularly if these have been agreed by the courts. Use the time you do have together to work on developing a bond with your child. You may not love your child’s other parent anymore – you may even resent them or be angry with them – but maintaining contact can protect your child against the negative effects of separation. It might be necessary to set your own feelings aside, at least in the beginning.
Article | contact, non-resident
3 min read
“I have feelings for 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 been in an amazing relationship for the past 4.5 years. I love my boyfriend so so much. This past weekend was PRIDE weekend. We went out together to a few get-togethers with friends and had a blast. There is this guy who is a mutual friend that was also there at the parties. Hes a great guy as well. We all may have been very intoxicated. Somehow me and the other guy ended up alone in the basement. Yikes. He kept hugging me and whispering stuff into my ear about how he cares about me and those sorts of things. It made me smile and feel happy in the moment. He then tells me that if anything were to ever happen between me and my boyfriend that he has dibs on me and that if i ever need help he’s there for me. This really has my mind running in circles and it’s stressing me out. Why? Because I feel that I have the same shared feelings that he expressed towards me. I care about him and I’d be there for him if he needed. I’m just very confused about the whole situation because I clearly love my boyfriend and don’t want to hurt him or myself. Also my current boyfriend is the only boyfriend I’ve had. We met in high school and have been together since. I’ve thought about possibly trying to take a break to explore myself more freely, but once again that’s scares me to death. We have too much invested in our relationship. We have a dog. We live together. And we own a car together. And we have plans to move to a different state within a few years. I want to bring this whole situation to his attention but I don’t want to hurt him. What do I do? Thank you.
Ask the community | someone else
“I love a boy but he has a girlfriend”
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. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   About two years ago, I met this boy at a party. And we started talking right away, but it was short because I was going home shortly after that. So the next day, he added me on all social media and we started to talk a lot, we later than started to hangout one on one. I was 18 at the time and hanging out with a boy one on one was something I had never really done before (but i have had a lot experience with boys in the past so this wasnt my first). When we hung out we would make out and stuff and just hangout and one time i actually slept over his house. Summer was coming and i was graduating high school and i found myself to like him more than he liked me. I was always reaching out to him, he was never answering and i eventually got the point (I also didn't see him a whole lot because he lived in the town next to me but def enough). So I went off to college and the next summer rolls around. We ended up hanging out with friends one night and my friends wouldn't stop talking about how flirtatious he was with me, and he was like that all last summer every time we would hangout. And It wasn't like the previous year, we connected so much and would talk for hours, i have never connected to someone like i did with him. So last summer we hooked up a few times, and he invited me over to his NYC penthouse, but of course it never happened. So I went back to school in the fall, and he gets a girlfriend. So this summer comes and I just basically forgot about him because he has a girlfriend and was taking summer classes. So I saw him last weekend for the first time in 6 months and he was hugging me like crazy and kissing my neck. We talked outside for about 2 hours and he was actually telling me about his girlfriend and how great she is and of course i was encouraging it because i would never want him to get hurt. and he told me that he would never cheat on her but he wishes he was able to just kiss me right there. And i wasnt even tempted to kiss him as much as i just wanted to become best friends with him. Its to the point where if i cannot be with him. i would do anything to just be best friends with him and hangout with him. I know I'm only 20 and still young but I feel like i knew from the second i met this boy that he was someone special. And i don't know what to do now because I cant stop thinking about last weekend (and we do not text, snapchat or anything) and i just really do love him. Should I let it ago and hope that in a few years after college maybe we can be something?
Ask the community | someone else, flirting
“Still a virgin 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. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   Hello, I'm 26 years old and have been married for 1.5 years. Before marriage I dated him for nearly 3 years. At the beginning of our relationship my partner was very much sexually attracted to me as he was stealing even little moments to kiss me or touch me and asked for photos and stuff but we never had full intercourse (due to cultural values), even though he liked it. Gradually I felt like he was losing interest in the sex part as soon as my mom passed away. He was obsessed in taking care for me and making me feel better. A year later we got married and moved to Australia. On our first night together and ever since I've tried several times to initiate sex but he does not want to. I'm a very shy girl in nature but I don't have any other option than initiating and trying. I make jokes, I tell him seriously that I want it but he makes jokes about it and that's it. I've began to feel desperate and during this 1.5 years I've argued and cried three times but he never answers my questions. Only thing he does is give me a hug that's it. I soon stop the conversation as I feel so ashamed of myself for being needy and sexually active. Unfortunately I feel like I'm sexually too active as I can't stop feeling desperate and I've started imagining things in my head with fictional characters. I've started watching love making videos and satisfying myself but I feel so empty. I want intimacy and during this 1.5 years we haven't even kissed lips. Whenever I try to kiss him on the cheek he laughs and pushes me away saying it tickles. Please help!! He is a lovely man and I love him!
Ask the community | intimacy, sex, sexless
“How to keep growing as a couple”
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. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   Many people in relationships have problems communicating, or are staying in dead-end relationships, becoming more disillusioned 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" 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
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

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