Parenting through Rise-filtered glasses
As a new parent, you might find yourself cut off from some of your usual social outlets, stuck at home for long stretches of time with only the baby for company. At this time, family and friends can be more important than ever, providing support and advice to boost your confidence and help get you through the tougher days. If your friends and family live far away, or if you don’t have face-to-face access, online social media can help you and your partner feel more connected to the outside world. Emotional support and positive feedback from other parents can also be invaluable as you figure things out [1] [2]. Social media can give you access to this, but it also helps you stay in touch with old friends who keep you connected to the parts of your life outside your parenting role [3]. Beating loneliness with online social interaction Your baby is always going to be your first priority, but these other social connections are important. As humans, we need to have meaningful relationships with each other – when we disconnect socially it can affect our health, making us more stressed and more likely to get sick, and affecting our sleep and concentration [3]. Social media can help you feel less isolated but it’s important to pay attention to the way you use it. Parents who actively engage with friends on social media tend to feel less stressed and more positive about their role as parents [2] but people who just spend more time on social media without engaging tend to feel more isolated, not less [3]. The difference here is between use and interaction. We’ve all spent time staring into our phones, refreshing our social media feeds in the hope that something new will come up. But this isn’t going to help you feel more connected when you’re knee-deep in baby wipes waiting for your partner to come home. You’ve got to reach out and engage with people if you want to experience the positive effects of social media. Turning off the filters It’s also important to keep some perspective on what you see through the lens of social media. We all know that Facebook life isn’t real life, and that nobody ever looks as good as they do on Instagram, but it’s easy to fall into the trap of seeing things through Rise-filtered glasses and believing everybody on social media is having a better time than you.  If social media is your only window into your friends’ lives, you might start thinking they are living happier, more connected lives than you [3]. Try to remember that you’re only seeing an edited glimpse of what your friends want the rest of the world to see. When your social networks start making you feel worse instead of better, take a step back and have a think about who you could reach out to for a chat. It’s the social aspect of social networks that’s valuable, so the next time you find yourself mindlessly scrolling through posts, send a message instead – ask for advice, vent your feelings, or just tell someone a funny story about your day. The empathy, advice and humour that you come across online can give you a life-affirming confidence boost and make you feel better about how you’re getting on as a parent [4]. You might even want to start by making a post here on Click.   References [1] Madge C., O’Connor H. (2006). Parenting gone wired: Empowerment of new mothers on the Internet? Social and Cultural Geography, 7, 199–220.[2] Bartholomew, M. K., Schoppe‐Sullivan, S. J., Glassman, M., Kamp Dush, C. M., & Sullivan, J. M. (2012). New parents' Facebook use at the transition to parenthood. Family relations, 61(3), 455-469.[3] Primack, B.A. et al (2017) Social Media Use and Perceived Social Isolation Among Young Adults in the U.S. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 53(1), 1-8.[4] Fletcher, R., & St. George, J. (2011). Heading into fatherhood—nervously: Support for fathering from online dads. Qualitative Health Research, 21(8), 1101-1114.
Article | social media, parenting
6 min read
Deciding who will stay home with the baby
When your child is born, the decision around who will stay at home and who will return to work can be a tricky one. If an assumption has been made that you will be the one staying home on full-time caring duties – perhaps because of traditional roles, or because your partner has a higher paid job – it might not necessarily be what you had in mind. While it may make sense financially, and while you may want to support your partner’s career, it’s possible you’ll still have reservations about being a stay-at-home parent. Exploring the options It may be that the decision makes so much sense financially that you feel like you don’t have a choice. This could make you feel trapped or uncomfortable. If it has felt like a forced or assumed decision, try explaining to your partner how you feel. The first step is to open up a conversation, so you can explore different options rather than assuming you will be the one to stay at home. Using language like “I feel like” rather than “You make me feel”, can really help here. Draw up a few plans together to see how things might play out if your partner stays home and you return to work, or consider some compromises, like reducing your hours and sharing childcare. You may discover that your partner is more willing than you expected to look at the alternatives. Wanting to keep working If you love your job or are invested in building a career, it may be that finances aren’t the only consideration. Consider your partner’s point of view too if the situation is reversed. Find a calm moment where you can talk freely and establish an agreement to hear each other out properly. Put your child’s needs first and decide what is really going to be best. Once you and your partner agree on who is going to be the main carer, establish some ground rules about how it’s going to work. Talk about how the working parent would like to be involved too – video calls at lunch time, bedtime stories after work, weekend outings, or whatever works. A non-traditional upbringing The phrase ‘primary carer’ just means the parent who stays at home with the child or spends the most time with the child. Like many parents, you or your partner may feel that mums are better as primary carers and dads are better at providing, ie putting food on the table [1]: One survey revealed that the majority of parents (76% of mothers, 56% of fathers) say that the mother has primary responsibility for childcare at home [2]. This is a popular view, but it’s not necessarily true. Traditions are already changing – as many as one in five dads are insole charge of childcare at some point during their week and dads represent one in ten of all parents who stay at home to care for their children full time [3]. Many dads, including those who have a primary caring role, still feel the weight of society’s pressure to conform to a traditional role of breadwinner [4], but studies have shown that fathers can be just as good as mothers in giving care and responding to their children’s needs [5]. There is no evidence to suggest that children will have a better start in life with a more traditional setup [6]. Whichever of you is going to be the primary carer may need some support and encouragement. Nobody is a perfect parent right away but talking things through can help provide a reassuring confidence boost. After all, whatever the setup, you’re both learning together.   References [1] Jordan (2009) [2] EHRC, (2009) [3] Lammy, (2013) [4] Doucet & Lee, (2014) [5] Kovner Kline & Wilcox, (2014) [6] Cabrera, et al., (2007)
Article | parenting, work
Money troubles while pregnant
When you and your partner are expecting a baby, the pressure you’re under can cause regular issues and arguments to be amplified. Arguments about money are particularly common during pregnancy, partly because of changes to working arrangements, and partly because of the extra expense of having a baby. A stressful time of life Many couples (around 40-67%) experience a drop in relationship quality, usually from the start of pregnancy until the child is around 15 months old. Everyone is different, but that’s generally when things start to feel a bit better again. 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 calmer. Try saying something like, “Can we talk about this again once we’ve calmed down a bit?” If you’re really struggling to reach compromises, our online course “How to argue better” might help. Try to avoid having these discussions in public places where the money pressures feel prevalent, like in the supermarket, or the bank. It’s usually much easier to resolve things privately in your own home. Making a budget You may both have different ideas about spending and saving. A budget can be very helpful in bringing you together to plan for the day to day. Budgets are especially useful if you intend to reduce your working hours.  You may also find that existing money problems that you’ve managed to keep on the back burner are suddenly coming into focus. Whatever stage you’re at, it’s never too late to start planning. If you’re not sure how to get started with a budget, you can find a free planner and some online guides through the Money Advice Service. Include work and childcare in your discussions and think about any new expenses. If you’ve never been parents before, you may want to sit down with some friends who’ve recently had babies and ask them to list all the things you’ll need to buy. Your midwife can help with that too. Find out your entitlements You may not know what benefits or state-funded support you’re entitled to. Benefits and financial support can be tricky because they are liable to change over time and will depend on your circumstances. Check out Citizens Advice and the Money Advice Service, who will be able to talk through your budget and help you learn what you are entitled to. You may be entitled to grants such as Healthy Start or the Sure Start Maternity Grant to help cover the basics and support you with essential one-off costs, or longer-term support like tax credits towards childcare costs, and Child Benefit. You can find out what you are entitled to using a free online benefits calculator, such as entitledto or Turn2Us. Finally, be honest with yourselves and kind to each other and you’ll significantly improve the chances of talking about money without an argument.
Article | pregnancy, finance
4 min read
Adjusting to an unplanned pregnancy
Couples that plan for pregnancy are often mentally and emotionally prepared for it when it happens. If you weren’t trying for a baby, you’ll have to adjust much quicker to this life-changing news. Feeling overwhelmed It may be a while before you can take it all in. When you’re overwhelmed by news that shocks you or changes your outlook on the world, it can feel like your thoughts and feelings are out of control. Before you start considering your options, take some time to think through how you feel. Try not to get too caught up with how you’re supposed to feel. Just be honest with yourself and, when you’re ready, regroup with your partner to talk it through. Try to cast off any guilt and try not to judge each other. This conversation is likely to be emotionally charged, so be gentle and sensitive. Avoid making absolute statements like, “This is never going to work” and, if things get heated, take a break from the conversation and return after you’ve both calmed down. Take the time and effort to listen to your partner’s point of view. Even if you disagree, it’s important that you are both heard and understood. When it feels too soon in your relationship Research has shown that couples deal with challenges better when they’ve had time to bond as a couple and build up a sense of togetherness. If your relationship is still new, you may not feel like you have that connection yet [1]. Having a baby together is a big commitment, and both of you will want to feel confident that your relationship is strong enough to take it on. Talk with your partner about the kind of relationship you both want for the future. Having these conversations can help build a sense of togetherness, and you might discover that your relationship has compatibility and long-term potential. Feeling unready to be a parent You may not feel ready because of practical things like lifestyle changes or financial security. Or the reason could be more deep-rooted. If, for example, your relationship with your own parents was a struggle, then you may be worried about repeating that relationship with your own child. Sit down with your partner and unpick what could be influencing how you feel. Explain that you’re still trying to understand your own reactions and feelings, and that you’re just looking for support to explore things. Lots of mums and dads will tell you that the feeling of being ‘ready’ never really kicks in. Feeling this way just means you’re taking it seriously and want to get it right. Remember that your partner is there to support you in your role as a parent – you’re not expected to figure everything out by yourself. You can help each other to learn how to be parents. Remember that while you are both adjusting to your new roles, you are still two individuals in a relationship together. Make a conscious effort to talk about things other than the pregnancy. Taking time for yourself to keep in touch with friends and maintain hobbies can help you feel like more than just a parent.   References [1] Reynolds, J. (2008). Supporting Couple Relationships: A Sourcebook for Practitioners. OnePlusOne http://www.oneplusone.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Supporting-Couple-Relationships-Sourcebook-For-Practitioners.pdf
Article | pregnancy, stress
4 min read
The pressure of becoming a father
If your partner has high expectations of you as a new father, it can put a lot of pressure on your journey into parenthood. High expectations Sometimes people expect their partners to make them happy. This is a lot of responsibility for one person, and it can become a heavy burden. If you’ve experienced that kind of pressure from your partner, you might also have experienced a sense of failure when they become disappointed or unhappy. So, when you consider the lifelong journey of parenthood, you may worry that expectations of being the perfect father and the perfect partner are just too heavy to bear. The truth is that you alone can’t make your partner happy. As each of you invests love and effort into the relationship, you can certainly contribute to each other’s happiness but, ultimately, each person is responsible for managing their own happiness. It might be helpful to talk this through with your partner and explain that you feel this sense of pressure and expectation. Open your sentences with, “I feel” rather than, “You make me feel”. Try to refrain from criticising or attacking, and just talk about what it feels like for you. Be ready to listen to your partner’s responses. You may learn something about the thoughts and feelings that have led to these expectations in the first place. Confidence Sometimes, high expectations come from within. It may be that you’re just lacking confidence in yourself. You’re not alone – evidence has shown that lots of new fathers worry about being able to take good enough care of a newborn, or doubt their ability to keep a child safe [1]. The concerns voiced by the greatest number of fathers related to his ability to "take good enough care" of his child (61%) and his ability to "keep your kids safe" (52%). Or, perhaps you worry that you’ve not experienced the best examples of parenthood from your own family and are worried about repeating the same mistakes. Discuss your fears with your partner, or with a close friend or family member that you can trust to reassure you. Taking postnatal classes with your partner can really help you prepare yourselves for the initial demands of parenting. They might help you to start thinking about fatherhood with less hesitation or trepidation. Ask your GP or local children’s centre about parenting classes near you. Always remember that you and your partner are parenting together – you’re allowed to ask for whatever support you need. Feeling heard You may feel you don’t have the opportunity to talk about your own expectations and thoughts for the future. Conversations with your partner might have felt one-sided, leaving you feeling like your own thoughts and emotions matter less. Choose a quiet time to sit down with your partner and explain that you’re not feeling heard. Try to avoid pointing the finger or blaming your partner; just talk about how you feel. Bring notes if it helps. Discuss your expectations of your fatherhood role and see how they compare to your partner’s. Where there are differences, discuss ways you might be able to compromise. This may need to develop over a series of conversations, so keep working at it.   References [1] Litton Fox, G., Bruce, C. and Combs-Orme, T. (2000) Parenting Expectations and Concerns of Fathers and Mothers of Newborn Infants. Family Relations, 49(2), 123–31 (P.126).
Article | fathers, stress
4 min read
Eight steps to being a good birthing partner
The birth of a child is a huge moment for you as a family, and it’s understandable that you’d want to do all the right things to support your partner. If you’re feeling nervous or unsure about your partner going into labour, these eight steps may help you feel more confident about how to offer the right support. Have discussions with your partner about where she’d like to give birth. Does she want to give birth at home, or in a hospital? Does she want a water birth? Talk about the kind of birth she wants more generally. Find out whether she wants an epidural during labour, or if she is interested in hypnobirthing. It’s useful to understand your partner’s feelings on this so you can help support her when the time comes. Try not to push your own feelings on her, and keep firmly in mind what kind of experience she is hoping to have. Focus on the experience your partner is going to have, and try to avoid telling stories of other people’s birthing experiences. Ask beforehand what kind of support and encouragement your partner is going to want from you during the labour. But be prepared that this may all go out the window when the time comes.   Have a supply of food and drink to hand for both of you. Bring a toothbrush and a fresh set of clothes. She’ll be really grateful for this after the birth. Ask if there’s anything else she might want – things like lip balm and a fan or cooling spray can often be welcome during labour. During labour, ask your partner, “What would you like me to do?” Don’t assume she will just tell you. If you have any other questions, worries or concerns about the birth, don’t hold back from talking to your partner about it. You can also talk to your midwife, who may be able to reassure you that you’re on the right track. It’s quite common for you to feel a bit anxious, but there’s plenty you can do to help and support. Remember that the little things can go a long way.
Article | birth, labour
2 min read
When grandparents don’t approve
The birth of a baby usually brings joy to the whole family. But, when the grandparents don’t approve, it can create tension for all of you. It’s important to try and resolve this, as grandparents’ input into your child’s life can  be quite beneficial. Grandparents pass on family heritage and traditions, promote skill development, and serve as a source of friendship and support [1]. Whether the problem is with your own parents or your partner’s parents, leaving it unresolved could mean your family misses out on love and support. It can also cause extra strain on your relationship as a couple. Why grandparents disapprove If your parents disapprove of your partner (or if your in-laws disapprove of you), they may be struggling to adjust to the fact that you have just made a very strong form of commitment in starting a family. If they disapprove of the relationship, they may have chosen your commitment to parenthood as an opportunity to express it. Or, sometimes, new grandparents can be pushy, controlling or critical without even knowing it. They might think they’re being supportive or helpful. Facing resistance from your own family can be frustrating – exasperating, even. If either of your parents have caused arguments between you and your partner in the past, you might fear more of the same, but there is hope. Research shows that parents’ initial disapproval over their children’s pursuit of parenthood is often short-lived. The following statement comes from a study on same-sex couples: For many parents that experienced initial disapproval from their families about pursuing parenthood, often times this reaction “softened” with time [2]. Helping your parents accept your family Whether the issue sits with your partner’s parents or your own, resolving the thing and moving forward requires both you and your partner to work together and agree on your approach. Having the conversation together as a couple shows that you’re united. But it might be better if you each take the lead with your own parents. As a couple, decide exactly how much involvement you want your parents to have. Look for compromises and try not to make anything feel like a personal attack on either of your parents. When talking about loved ones (even if they’re being annoying), it’s natural to want to defend them. Start by reminding your parents how much you value them and that you’re looking forward to their involvement with your baby. Talk with them about how you’d like them to be involved, rather than about what you expect from them. Tell them about the help you would appreciate, and the help that won’t be necessary. Remember to say, “We have decided” rather than, “I think”. This will reinforce that you’re a team and that you’ve thought things through properly.  Once you’ve agreed your boundaries, it will become much easier to see when one of your parents has overstepped the mark, and you’ll be able to agree on an appropriate response together. Even if your parents are applying pressure unintentionally, family conflicts and fallouts can disturb the peace in your relationship. Stay open and honest with your partner throughout, so that when you come to face external difficulties from others, you can work together to deal with it.   References [1] Schmeeckle, M., & Sprecher, S. (2004). Extended family and social networks. Handbook of family communication, 349-375. [2] Koller, J. M. (2008). A study on gay and lesbian intergenerational relationships: a test of the solidarity model. ProQuest.
Article | grandparents
5 min read
Finding out you are having a disabled child
If you’ve been planning for a baby, you may have a picture in your mind of what your family life will be like. When the doctor tells you that your child might have a disability, this picture will have to adjust very quickly. This can be a truly difficult time for new parents. Dealing with the change in expectations can be stressful for you both, triggering emotional responses at an already overwhelming time. If the disappointment is prolonged, it can create a negative atmosphere and tarnish an experience which you hoped would be exciting.    Why might this be happening? We have no frame of reference You might be struggling to deal with your expectations simply because you don’t know what to expect. You may not know any other parents who have a disabled child, or you may not know anyone with a disability. As a result, you could feel like you have no one to talk to or get advice from. This can leave you feeling isolated. However, while you may not know anyone in your current network of friends and family, there are thousands of other parents in similar situations to yours. Ask your GP to refer you to a local support group for parents of disabled children, or visit a support site like Contact. Talking to other parents can help you get a better understanding of how raising a child with additional needs might impact your couple relationship and other areas of your life. We feel helpless One of the overriding feelings in this situation is powerlessness, particularly during pregnancy. Sometimes there’s little or nothing you can really do to help your child. This feeling can be quite overwhelming, and although the desire to help comes from a good place, it can sometimes lead parents to withdraw. The difficulty here is recognising what you can control, and accepting what you can’t. Understanding this might 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. This can help you see where you might be putting too much pressure on yourselves, and focus more on what you might be able to accomplish. We have different ideas of what life will be like You may have accepted that your child will be born with additional needs, but perhaps your partner is still trying to come to terms with it. As a result, you may each have completely different expectations of how it will affect your lifestyles. If one of you is more positive than the other, or carries a different outlook, it could lead to arguments or create tension in your relationship.  To ease tension and reduce conflict, it’s important that you both talk about your expectations for the future are and discuss how you might come to a compromise. Make time to listen to and reassure each other. Taking the time to anticipate the challenges you will face, will make you more likely to have realistic expectations and more able to deal with difficult situations when they come up [1]. Coming to terms with reality It’s OK to grieve for the loss of the life you imagined. Talk to your partner, and offer support if they’re feeling the same way. Be prepared to go through a range of emotions and accept that you both may not be at your best for a while. Keep in mind that you are still becoming parents and try to focus on the joys that your child will bring. Support networks such as Contact can help put you in touch with other parents in similar situations who can share their positive parenting experiences with you.    References [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).
Article | disability
Couple time with a disabled child
As new parents, you probably know that you won’t have as much time together when the baby comes. But if you’ve been told that your baby might be born with a disability, it could mean you’ll spend even more time and energy caring for your baby and helping them overcome their early difficulties. Estimates suggest that more than half a million children in England alone have a mild to seriously disabling condition or chronic illness [1], so lots of parents across the country are also facing this extra strain. Why you might have less quality time If you’re expecting to be busy looking after your baby and catering to their needs, then you know you’re likely to have less quality time with your partner as a result. Consider the following and see if any of them apply to you: A large part of quality time is talking through the things that matter. In tough times, some people use busyness as a coping mechanism, and the conversation might feel just too difficult to have. Rather than facing the issue and discussing your fears and expectations with your partner, you might instead be busying yourself away with other tasks. There may be a string of healthcare appointments to attend, dealing with the pregnancy and the practicalities of your child’s condition. You may need to make preparations for the baby’s arrival, and spend a lot of time researching ways to modify your home environment for your child. You may both be so wrapped up in the preparation stages that you’re barely spending any time together as a couple. When a child has a disability or vulnerability, they often need extra focus and attention. You may worry that your relationship will drop down the priority scale even further when the baby is born. What you can do to help yourself and your partner You and your partner might find it difficult to discuss how your baby’s disability or health complication could affect your family dynamic and how you will work together to support them. But burying the issue, tiptoeing around it, or pretending it isn’t there, puts you at risk of leaving yourselves unprepared when the baby arrives. It takes courage to talk about the issues that frighten us. If you’re struggling to find the words, try writing down what you’re feeling before you share it with your partner. As things progress, aim to have regular discussions and start making preparations together. It’s important for you both as parents-to-be to work on talking openly and positively about your fears and expectations [3]. Discussing and anticipating the kinds of issues you might face will help you deal with difficult situations when they come up [2]. The extra challenges you face as parents will challenge your relationship too so, even if you need to prioritise your child’s needs, it’s important to look after your relationship, and set aside a little couple time too.   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).
Article | disability
4 min read
Bonding with adopted children
Whatever your reasons are for adopting, you may wonder if you will have the same bond with your child as a biological parent would expect to have. See if any of these feelings resonate with you: 1) You might think you’ve missed your chance to bond You may be concerned about missing out on the initial bonding that takes place during and after pregnancy. Some mothers also worry that missing out on the bonding experience of breastfeeding will be detrimental. 2) You may worry about the child’s history The majority of children awaiting adoption have experienced difficult childhoods, often coming from families with a history of drug or alcohol problems, domestic violence, neglect or abuse. Knowing this, you may worry that their history and experiences will make it difficult to bond and establish trust. 3) You may have initially hoped to adopt a young child The majority of couples are likely to be matched with a child between the age of one and four, and around 20% are five and above. If you and your partner were hoping to adopt a newborn, this might come as a disappointment. You are not alone. Around one in five parents come to adoption hoping to be matched with a baby, and many others express a preference for being matched with a child as young as possible [1]. It may help to know that, throughout the adoption process, lots of potential parents compromise on at least one of the criteria they started out with, usually related to the age of the child. Some parents even open up to the idea of accepting two or more siblings, having started out wanting to adopt a single child. Most parents who change their criteria report being happy with the decision and see it as a natural part of the adoption process [1]. You will have an opportunity to learn about the case history of a child before and after a match is made. During the matching phase, take the opportunity to ask questions about the lives and experiences of potential matches. It’s important that you’re happy with the match and it’s OK to ask for extra information at any time. Once a match has been made – and this can take several months – there will usually be a handover phase where your child makes the transition from a foster home to living with you. This is a further opportunity to learn about the child’s background, but also about their routines and current lifestyle, so you can help them adjust to living with you. Remember that nothing is yet set in stone, and that a match won’t be made until you are happy to go ahead. If you need some time to adjust, you can take that time, and make your own decision. The more active you remain in the process and the more information you have about the child you are adopting, the more likely you are to find the process a positive one, and help to create a successful match for you and your new family. How do parents bond with adopted children? Allow the time and space to get to know your child and build up a bond. Even with a natural birth, bonding is not automatic, and many adopting parents find that they feel the same way about their adopted children as they would a biological one. Your concerns over parental bonding may start to ease when the child comes into your care. If your child has been in a difficult or unloving environment, it may take longer to establish trust, so be prepared for the bonding process to take a bit longer. But have faith – even if you are adopting a child who’s a bit older, you are not necessarily at a disadvantage where bonding is concerned. Children develop attachments with the people who offer them a sense of security and support, consistently over a period of time. Sharing your feelings with your partner could provide an opportunity for you both to talk about any concerns or questions you might have. Remember to explain that these worries you’re having are not an indication that you’re questioning your decision to adopt, but rather, that you’re just looking to explore and make sense of your feelings.  For more information on adopting, take a look at: www.baaf.org.uk and www.adoptionuk.org.   References [1] Selwyn, J., Meakings, S., & Wijedasa, D. (2015). Beyond the adoption order: Challenges, interventions and adoption disruption. London: British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF).
Article | adoption
6 min read
Talking about same-sex parenting
As a same-sex parent, planning for a child differs from the traditional route in obvious ways. Whether you’ve chosen to adopt or work with a donor or surrogate parent, you’ve had to make some big decisions to get to this point. It can be difficult to turn to others for a quick chat about how to child-proof your kitchen without the conversation leading to the topic of how to raise a child can be raised in a same-sex family or which of you is going to take on which duties when the child arrives. You might find that a lot of the traditional advice and information that’s been handed down through regular channels doesn’t immediately relate to your own experience, or face discriminatory attitudes from the service providers who are supposed to support you, Your employers and other colleagues might also be putting barriers in your way. All of this can lead to difficulties around the practical arrangements of childcare and other financial matters, making you feel isolated and confused about where to turn. Why is this affecting our relationship? Discrimination can affect your relationship in several ways. Your relationship may already be under strain from parenting [1], so any additional pressure can be much harder to deal with [2]. It can also be troubling because it’s difficult to face the issue head on. It’s not easy to resolve stress that comes from outside your relationship, and it’s hard to talk to people who don’t understand or respect your desire to become a parent [3]. How can I improve things? Take a moment to remind yourselves why you wanted to become parents in the first place. Remind yourselves of the journey you’ve been on and all the challenges you’ve dealt with so far. The discrimination you are facing is not your fault, and bears no reflection on your capabilities as a parent, or your potential to learn new skills and raise a child. There is no evidence to support claims that children should fare any worse in a same-sex household [4]. It may also help to remember that there are others out there facing similar challenges to your own. The number of same-sex couples raising children is on the rise [5], and the introduction of same-sex marriage represents a significant step towards more widespread acceptance. Where to get support Try seeking support from statutory services either privately or through your GP, to talk through anything that’s bothering you. You can also turn to online forums, such as the one here on Click, where you can voice your concerns anonymously amongst people in similar situations. You may also be able to lean on your social circle. At first, you may find it helpful to seek the support of a few trusted family members and friends. Research has shown that couples who maintain close ties with their family and friends can feel the benefits in their general wellbeing and quality of life through practical and emotional support [6] [7]. Research has shown that family members who initially express disapproval often warm up to the idea once the child arrives [8]. Keep reminding your family that you love and support each other and that, while you would prefer to have their support, you will still be parents regardless. Letting your family know that their negative attitudes won’t affect you gives them a more realistic choice to make about how involved they want to be. And remember – it’s your decision to become a parent and you have the right to be supported through that process. Make room for the voices that want to help you and politely ignore the ones that don’t. With a bit of self-acceptance, you may find that there are more people on your side than you realised.   References [1] Petch, J., & Halford, W. K. (2008). Psycho-education to enhance couples transition to parenthood. Clinical Psychology Review, 28(7), 1125-1137. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2008.03.005 [2] Shapiro, A. F. and 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). [3] NatCen (2014). British Social Attitudes. [4] Crouch, S. R., Waters, E., Mcnair, R., Power, J., & Davis, E. (2014). Parent-reported measures of child health and wellbeing in same-sex parent families: A cross-sectional survey. BMC Public Health, 14(1). doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-635 [5] ONS (2013) [6] Gierveld, J. D., & Tilburg, T. V. (2010). The De Jong Gierveld short scales for emotional and social loneliness: Tested on data from 7 countries in the UN generations and gender surveys. European Journal of Ageing, 7(2), 121-130. doi:10.1007/s10433-010-0144-6 [7] Moor, N., & Komter, A. (2011). The impact of family structure and disruption on intergenerational emotional exchange in Eastern Europe. European Journal of Ageing, 9(2), 155-167. doi:10.1007/s10433-011-0207-3 [8] Koller (2008)
Article | same-sex, parenting
4 min read
Understanding postnatal depression
Postnatal depression (PND) is a type of depression that some women (and some men) experience after having a baby. It can affect around 10 to 15% of women [1] and it tends to occur within the first twelve months after birth. Like other types of depression, it is often misunderstood. If your partner doesn’t understand or underestimates the effects of PND, they might not be able to empathise with you and support you through it. This can cause a conflict in the relationship. Why is this happening? Your partner's misunderstanding or ignorance might be frustrating, but it may just be a lack of knowledge. As a nation, we’re not very good at differentiating between having a low mood, and being depressed. Your partner might assume that, if you have PND, you’ll be sad all the time and cry a lot. So, if your PND manifests itself in other ways, such as sleeping a lot, feeling numb, or withdrawing, it may not be recognised for what it is. Your partner may also assume that, if you didn’t get PND in the first few months, then you can’t be experiencing it now. However, PND can happen any time within the first year after giving birth. How can I help? Firstly, it might be helpful for your partner to know and recognise PND symptoms, some of which may include: Low mood. Loss of interest in usual activities. Feelings of worthlessness. Loss of energy. Crying spells. Insomnia. Fatigue. Anxiety. Poor concentration [1] [2]. PND is a real illness, and anyone suffering from it needs professional help. So it’s important your partner not only understands what PND is, but is willing to learn how it affects you. Try to open the conversation more broadly. Rather than trying to explain PND, try simply asking your partner for support. Different people have different ideas what kind of behaviour is supportive, so your partner may just have a different perspective to you on the subject of PND or depression in general. Relationships between couples following the birth of their child can be fraught, and depression is more likely to develop in both mothers and fathers in the first year of birth [3]. If you feel that your partner is not really paying attention or seems to lack interest, try to remember that people's perspectives are often formed through other people’s attitudes to depression – usually someone quite influential like their own parents. Stick with it, and ask for your partner's undivided attention to explore the issue. Encouraging your partner to speak to a medical professional or a health visitor could be helpful, as they are equipped to explain PND from a psychological and biological standpoint. They may also be able to provide further resources for support for you both. References [1] Yiong Wee, K., Skouteris, H., Pier, C., Richardson, B. and Milgrom, J. (2011) Correlates of Ante- and Postnatal Depression in Fathers: A Systematic Review. Journal of Affective Disorders 130(3), 358–77. [2] Andrews-Fike, C. (1999). A review of postpartum depression. Primary care companion to the Journal of clinical psychiatry, 1(1), 9. [3] (Davé, Petersen, Sherr, & Nazareth, 2010).” (p.29)  
Article | postnatal depression
“Relationship issues after birth of child”
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 issue with my partner after our girl was born. I am being always very close to my partner and we did pretty everything together. This baby for us is like a blessing since I am low count guy and I have few chance to achieve this naturally. Basically I am very keen in doing home duties from cleaning to grocery and household stuff shop. I always have done this, even before pregnancy. During pregnancy I supported my partner every day by helping her with shoes, eating and also being always at scan and check. Of course I did mistakes sometime because my love one is anxious and tends to overreact to problems and sometime I used bad words because I was panicking too. However always recognized my mistakes and made my apologies, now I am changed and tends to be more calm and paced when she get anxious. However, I use to snore and in the last ya my sleep become quit deep. The his made me incapable of listening my partner calling me sometime for help on nappy changes and nights with the baby. However, it was not like this always and I did what I was capable of doing, since for both of us is just the first child. In addition I work and I am trying to make my work do not forbid me for being next to them. Despite this my partner said that she hate me for not being able to help her in the nights, she hate everything of me and want to leave. This started an evening when I was returned from the usual shop for all of us and by closing the door the lock woke up the baby. From that day every single minimal thing is something to argue and tell me how I am shitty. I am confused worried and really exhausted of being treated like this from the person that I LOVE. Please someone has any advice? Cheers
Ask the community | parenting, arguments
Say goodbye to the birds and the bees
Talking to your children about sex and relationships can be a daunting prospect but, while it might be tempting to put it off, it’s best to start sooner rather than later. It’s time for the birds and the bees chat to be replaced by open and honest conversations – not just about sex, but about relationship skills like managing emotions, resolving arguments, and listening to other points of view [1]. Try to purge your mind of any negative memories from your own childhood. Even if your sex education was a big awkward talk; or a pamphlet on the sins of the flesh left conspicuously on your bed; or just years of silence, it doesn’t have to be like that for your children. Relationships education is changing The school curriculum is changing. What used to be SRE (Sex and Relationships Education) is becoming RSE (Relationships and Sex Education). Your child will still learn about sex but within the context of understanding relationships, which will help them recognise the good and bad relationships in their lives. Relationships education is likely to include information about a variety of relationship types, including friendships. There is a compelling case for children learning skills to help them talk about their feelings and be more aware of the quality of their relationships [1]. This change comes at a valuable time, as more children are reporting being unhappy with their friendships [2]. Schools are already doing more to teach about online safety, including sexting, cyberbullying and pornography. Young people are spending more time online [3] [4] and, as a result, they may be facing sex and relationship challenges that you never had to deal with. The Department for Education will give schools more guidance about the new RSE curriculum soon and learning about this as a parent too can help you support your child in making safe, sensible choices as they get older. What parents and children think In light of these developments, we teamed up with youth charity The Mix to ask children and parents what topics they’d like to see covered in relationships and sex education. The top five most important topics listed by parents and carers were: Staying safe online Bullying and cyberbullying Being aware of who knows what is being shared online What makes a good and not so good friendship Abusive relationships Bullying and abusive relationships were also particularly important topics for young people who wanted to know more about recognising – and getting out of – bad relationships. Overall, nearly 90% of parents agreed that sex education would be improved by including relationships education [1]. Talking about relationships and sex The coming RSE lessons in schools will be a good opportunity for you to learn together and build on your child’s learning by starting your own conversations at home. While it might seem tricky or embarrassing, it’s best to talk openly and honestly. The more open you are, the more confident and competent your children are likely to be in their own relationships [5]. It’s often easier to talk about sex and relationships by taking advantage of opportunities to talk, like using an issue they’ve experienced at school, a storyline on TV, or a pregnant friend. Don’t wait until they’re already going through puberty, and don’t plan a big ‘sit down’ conversation. Think of it as an ongoing conversation that can be returned to as needed [5]. When your child shows curiosity, answer their questions honestly, but don’t feel you need to expand in great detail beyond what they ask. A good guideline to bear in mind is that if your child is asking you a question, they’re ready to learn the answer. If you find it difficult, you might want to look into a course like Speakeasy, which was set up to help parents feel more confident talking to their children about sex, and to make them more aware of opportunities to do so [6]. If you can’t find a course near you, there are lots of helpful tips on the FPA website. Working with your child’s school Many of the parents who took our survey were keen to play a part in their children’s relationships education [1]. Young people are also more willing than in previous generations to talk to their parents about things that matter to them [2], but it’s easier to get these conversations in early, while children are still young. As they get older, children and young people tend to lean away from parents and teachers, preferring to learn from peers, or by looking things up online [1]. RSE is more effective when schools and parents work together [7]. Making yourself aware of what’s on the RSE curriculum when it launches can help you think about how you might approach conversations at home, perhaps building on topics that are being taught in school [6]. So, keep your eyes and ears open for the new curriculum details in 2019 and, in the meantime, follow our blogs for expert information about relationships.   References [1] OnePlusOne (2018). Relationships and Sex Education: A submission to the Department for Education. [2] Office for National Statistics (2018) ‘Children’s Well-Being and Social Relationships, UK - Office for National Statistics’. Retrieved online from the Office for National Statistics website: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/wellbeing/articles/measuringnationalwellbeing/march2018. [3] Ofcom (2017) Internet use and attitudes: 2017 Metrics Bulletin. Retrieved online from the Ofcom website: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/105507/internet-use-attitudes-bulletin-2017.pdf [4] Frifth, E. (2017) Social media and children’s mental health: a review of the evidence. Education Policy Institute. Retrieved online from the Education Policy Institute website: https://epi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Social-Media_Mental-Health_EPI-Report.pdf [5] Wilson, Ellen K., Barbara T. Dalberth, Helen P. Koo, and Jennifer C. Gard. (2010) ‘Parents’ Perspectives on Talking to Preteenage Children About Sex’. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 42 (1): 56–63. [6] 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: 4, 437-448. [7] Pound, P., Denford, S., Shucksmith, J., Tanton, C., Johnson, A. M., Owen, J., Hutten, R., Mohan, L., Bonell, C., Abraham, C., and Campbell, R. (2017) What is best practice in sex and relationship education? A synthesis of evidence, including stakeholders’ views. BMJ Open, 7: e014791.  doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2016-014791
Article | sex, sex education
9 min read
Do parenting styles matter?
Different parenting styles can have different effects on children’s outcomes How you choose to parent your children will depend on many factors, and your partner’s preferred style may differ from your own. What are parenting styles? In 1991, the psychologist Diana Baumrind identified four key parenting styles that are still talked about today [1]. These are: Authoritarian Authoritarian parenting is a very strict kind of parenting with clear rules in place, that aren’t to be questioned by children. It’s a sort of ‘do as I say’ philosophy which can be very effective in the short term but in the long term, it can lead to children feeling less happy, less confident, and with lower self-esteem. Authoritative Authoritative parenting differs from authoritarian parenting in that rules and guidelines are balanced with warmth and caring. Children can question the rules and are offered explanations as to why they are in place. Children with this type of background tend to be more confident and socially responsible, and may be better at making decisions for themselves [1]. Permissive Permissive parenting is where parents have very few rules and allow children to set their own agenda. These parents may sometimes seem to be in a friendship role rather than a parental one. Children raised in very permissive environments may have trouble coping with stress and difficult situations when they get older [2]. Rejecting-neglecting This is an extreme type of parenting where parents don’t respond to their children’s needs at all. This can be incredibly damaging, leading to children with low self-esteem, a lack of self-control, and difficulty in school. Neglecting a child, which includes sustained emotional abuse, is illegal.  Do parenting styles matter? The way you interact with your child has an impact on how they get on in life. Your parenting style will affect your child’s behaviour, the way they process their feelings, how they do at school, and even how they develop physically. It is generally thought that authoritative parenting, where you balance structure with warmth, leads to the best outcomes for children [1]. As a parent, you will develop your own style, which may be a result of the parenting you received as a child, your life experience, your beliefs and values, and any other learning you’ve picked up along the way. It may be close to one of the above styles, or perhaps a combination of two or more of them. In addition to the effect on your children, your choice of parenting style can also affect your overall happiness as a couple and as a family. As long as you and your partner can agree on parenting decisions, you’re likely to feel better and have better relationship quality [4]. What if my partner has a different parenting style? It’s OK to have different parenting styles, and even to have different goals as parents. Your child can get along perfectly well as long as you work together. One useful thing you can do is talk to your partner and try to identify both of your parenting styles. Work out your similarities and where you differ. This can help you prepare together and figure out where you might need to compromise. If you can reach a united front, your different parenting styles can be successfully managed [6]. It’s also worth remembering that a parenting style isn’t necessarily a permanent state. If you’re having a tough time, or you’ve been arguing with your partner, the impact on your feelings can affect the way you do anything, including parenting [5]. Try to be aware of how you feel, and work on resolving conflict when it comes up. With communication and compromise, the two of you will be able to give your child the best possible start in life.   References [1] Baumrind, D. (1991). The Influence of Parenting Style on Adolescent Competence and Substance Use. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 11(1), 56–95. [2] Benson, M. J., Buehler, C., & Gerard, J. M. (2008). Interparental Hostility and Early Adolescent Problem Behavior: Spillover via Maternal Acceptance, Harshness, Inconsistency, and Intrusiveness. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 28(3), 428–454. [3] Rinaldi, C. M., & Howe, N. (2012). Mothers’ and fathers’ parenting styles and associations with toddlers’ externalizing, internalizing, and adaptive behaviors. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 27(2), 266–273. [4] Don, B. P., Biehle, S. N., & Mickelson, K. D. (2013). Feeling like part of a team: Perceived parenting agreement among first-time parents. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 30(8), 1121–1137. [5] Reynolds, J., Houlston, C., Coleman, L., & Harold, G. (2014). Parental Conflict: Outcomes and interventions for children and families. Bristol: Policy Press. [6] Chen, M., & Johnston, C. (2012). Interparent childrearing disagreement, but not dissimilarity, predicts child problems after controlling for parenting effectiveness. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 41(2), 189–201.
Article | parenting styles
Meeting your partner's children
When you enter a relationship with a separated parent, it can be hard to know how to play things when it comes to your partner’s children. When parents separate, their children often hold on to the hope that their mum and dad will someday get back together. Older children may be more aware of some of the problems that led to the separation but still struggle to accept that their parents are no longer a couple. Whatever age your children are, they may struggle to adjust to their mum or dad finding a new partner, or even dating. This will need careful handling. As the parent, you may well pick up signals from your child and recognise how they are dealing with the change. Each situation is unique and the best way to handle it depends on several issues – the children’s ages, the relationship they have with the other parent, the stage at which you and your partner get together, and whether you have children too. As the new partner, you could find yourself caught up in parenting conflicts between your partner and the children’s other parent. It might feel like you are being tested and caught up in family difficulties that you would rather avoid. Meeting your partner’s children can be daunting, and figuring out the nature of your involvement can be even more so. The following tips can help you avoid some of the potential pitfalls Don't rush things. Allow the relationship to develop slowly and don't expect the children to love you or even like you straightaway. However much the children test your patience, aim for a relationship where you respect each other and treat each other fairly. Be prepared to take a back seat when the children are around. Accept that it is not a competition - the bond between parents and children is always going to come first. Make it clear that you understand your partner's first responsibility is to the children. This will help take pressure off both of you - your partner will need to hear that you accept this. Be patient – your partner can give you their undivided attention when the children are not around. Don’t try to be a substitute parent. Be supportive but don't expect to take on a parenting role. Don't criticise, complain or even joke about the other parent in front of the children. Children of all ages can struggle with loyalty issues, so be sensitive. Accept that there will need to be communication between your partner and their ex - partner about the children. Good communication is essential if things are going to work. Try to understand the loyalty conflicts your partner might be experiencing, even if they don't talk about it. There will be times when they feel pulled in several directions. Even if your partner’s children accept you very readily, try to give them some time alone so they can have their mum or dad’s undivided attention. Try to support your partner when they feel caught in the middle. If there are arguments and disagreements between your partner and their ex, remember that you’re only hearing one side of it. Try and talk to others who aren't involved - this might include friends who are in similar situations or anonymously here on Click. You may start to find that there are common issues, and that they can be worked through.
Article | stepfamily, step-parents
Having a baby doesn’t have to hurt
If you're about to have a baby, you may have heard all manner of scare stories about how your relationship will suffer. It doesn’t always have to be that way. We’ve scoured the research and found some encouraging tips about how to look after your couple relationship as you make the transition to parenthood. While it’s true that many couples face a decline in relationship satisfaction when they become parents, there are also couples whose relationships stay strong, and even improve during parenthood [1]. If you feel like you’d rather be one of those couples, read on, but be warned – it’s going to get a little rough before it gets smooth. Whatever happens, things will change. There’s no point pretending they won’t. If you want to be one of the couples who keep hold of the happiness that their love for each other brings, one of the first things you need to do is acknowledge the risks. Simply knowing what you’re facing will help you avoid the pitfalls [2]. Babies are incredibly demanding. They rely on you for food, shelter, cuddles, getting from one soft surface to another and, very importantly, clean underwear. They don’t know how to use a toilet, they sleep irregular hours, and the only way they know how to communicate with you is by crying very loudly. They need you. All the time. This demand on your time and energy can wreak havoc on your emotions. You and your partner are learning new skills, you’re exhausted, and you’ve got less free time than you used to have. It can be hard (impossible, even) to squeeze in things like nights out with friends, trips to art galleries, snuggles on the sofa, lazy days with the Sunday papers and that old cherished pastime, sex. [3] With all this new activity, exhaustion, and a decrease in couple activities, you won’t be surprised to find yourselves feeling a little raw and ragged. It’s no wonder new parents sometimes find themselves snapping at each other about who does all the housework and who was supposed to pick up nappies on their way home from going out to buy nappies. But there is a glimmer of hope: not all new parents experience a decline in relationship satisfaction. In fact, some couples find they adapt so well to the changes that the shared experience of parenting can bring them closer together than they were before [3]. Research has thankfully shown that there are certain things you can do which will help you maintain a good relationship as you make the transition to parenthood: Talk to each other When you’re considering trying for a baby, one thing you might want to think about is how well you communicate now, and what you can do to improve things. Research shows that couples who have good communication before the pregnancy are likely to be happier with their relationships after the baby is born [4] [5]. Remember you’re a couple and keep saying “I love you” Having a baby will change your identity. As well as being a friend, a lover, an electrician (or whatever you are), you’re also going to be someone’s mum or dad. It’s not just a change in what you do; it’s an extra part of who you are. But remember that you’re also still a partner and a lover. Making an effort to express your love and affection for your partner is one of the things successful couples do to ensure their relationships don’t suffer [6]. Acknowledge that things are going to change You don’t have to be terrified, but you do need to acknowledge that things are going to be different in your relationship. Admit this to yourself, and talk about it with your partner. When couples have similar expectations of parenthood, they are more likely to cope better with the changes [1]. Accept that you’re going to be busier, and that it’s going to be harder to find time for intimacy for a while. Talk about how you’re going to handle this together. Even if it turns out to be tougher than you expected, you’ll be facing the challenges together, and you’ll find it easier to talk about further adjustments that you need to make. Whatever you do, just keep communicating. Let your family help Obviously, this isn’t possible for everyone. Your family might not be local, or they might just not be very helpful but, if you can lean on your child’s grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc., do. Wider family can offer tips and advice if they’ve had children of their own (you don’t always have to follow this advice, of course!) and practical support. If your family aren’t much help, perhaps you’d find it easier to lean on close friends. Most people love to feel helpful, so you should never feel guilty for accepting help [7]. Take a parenting course There are loads of great parenting courses available, and many of them include elements of relationship support. Visit your local children’s centre or ask your GP where you can access parenting support. It is often free and, as well as equipping you with valuable parenting skills, it can also help you connect with other parents in your area. Whether you feel like you’re struggling or not, parenting and relationship practitioners can help make difficult things better and great things stay great [8]. As we often say here at Click, the most important thing is to keep communicating. Accept that things are going to change. Talk to your partner about how this might play out. Discuss your hopes and fears, and make sure you are both on the same page. Don’t forget to be a partner as well as a parent. And, perhaps above all, seek out and accept help wherever you can. Having a baby doesn’t have to hurt your relationship.   References [1] Kluwer, E. S. (2010). From Partnership to Parenthood: A Review of Marital Change Across the Transition to Parenthood. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 2(2), 105–125. [2] Clements, M. L., Martin, S. E., Cassil, A. K., & Soliman, N. N. (2011). Declines in Marital Satisfaction Among New Mothers: Broad Strokes Versus Fine Details. Journal of Marriage and Family, 73(1), 13–17. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2010.00783.x [3] Houlston, C., Coleman, L., & Mitcheson, J. (2013). Changes for the couple relationship during the transition to parenthood: Risks and protective factors. International Journal of Birth and Parent Education, (1), 18–22. [4] Houts, R. M., Barnett-Walker, K. C., Paley, B., & Cox, M. J. (2008). Patterns of couple interaction during the transition to parenthood. Personal Relationships, 15(1), 103–122. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-6811.2007.00187.x [5] Kluwer, E. S., & Johnson, M. D. (2007). Conflict Frequency and Relationship Quality Across the Transition to Parenthood. Journal of Marriage and Family, 69(5), 1089–1106. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2007.00434.x [6] Koivunen, J. M., Rothaupt, J. W., & Wolfgram, S. M. (2009). Gender Dynamics and Role Adjustment During the Transition to Parenthood: Current Perspectives. The Family Journal, 17(4), 323–328. http://doi.org/10.1177/1066480709347360 [7] Glade, A. C., Bean, R. A., & Vira, R. (2005). A Prime Time for Marital/Relational Intervention: A Review of the Transition to Parenthood Literature with Treatment Recommendations. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 33(4), 319–336. http://doi.org/10.1080/01926180590962138 [8] Glenn, F. (2007). Growing together, or drifting apart: children with disabilities and their parents’ relationship. London: OnePlusOne.
Article | communication, parenting together, big changes
7 min read
Working out how to parent together
During pregnancy and the first few months of a baby’s life, couples tend to cope better if they can find specific ways to support each other. In any stressful period, communication difficulties can arise and you may feel misunderstood or ignored by your partner.   You might find that you and your partner have different ideas about how to be supportive. Some parents, particularly mothers, just want to vent their frustrations, or express their desperation at feeling unable to meet their baby’s needs. You might hear this and feel your partner wants you to find the answers. However, she might just be looking for reassurance that she’s doing her best and is a good mother. Most new parents want reassurance from their partner Many parents, often fathers, feel overwhelmed by having to be the breadwinner, particularly if they feel that this is their main role. They may be looking for attention or hoping to be let in more to the parenting decisions. When a parent feels left out, they may also feel angry or resentful towards their partner and the baby. Both parents can be left feeling unsupported and unloved, which can lead to further difficulties if the problems are not dealt with. In reality, you both still want the same things: to be happy together with your baby and to be comforted and supported by each other. Couples who get through the difficult early months and take pleasure in enjoying the baby together, can find a deeper bond emerging. Working out ‘how’ to be a parent New parents often argue about differences over how to handle the baby; pick her up or leave her? Feed on demand or four-hourly? Should they follow their parents’ methods and, if so, whose parents? Mothers, or primary carers, may feel they know best because they spend more time with the baby and feel they know them better. However, if you find it hard to let your partner help, or question his handling of the baby too much, he may end up feeling undermined and unsupported. It’s better to talk through your differences calmly – criticism on either side will only make things harder. As new parents, you may find it difficult to get time to talk, as well as not always knowing what to say. You may just want to bottle up your feelings or you may become more argumentative because you’re tired and irritable. It can start to feel like you’re on different sides and you may feel hurt and resentful. But it’s always worth opening up a conversation. Be honest about how you feel and the part you want to play, both as a parent and a partner. Give your partner the opportunity to talk. Keep listening to each other and try to agree that you’ll both do your best to support each other in your new roles.
Article | parenting, communication
“Lonely first-time Mam”
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’m a first time Mam to our wonderful, happy 5 month old daughter - but am struggling to understand my husbands actions since her birth. I appreciated at first that her arrival would bring about a significant and substantial change in our dynamic and that time and talking through it would help us resettle into our new rhythm as a family. However - he has been dismissive and distant - put his needs above hers / ours. He has planned a number of imminent holidays away with his friends - spends leisure time away from the home at pubs / coffee shops when he isn’t working. When I try and raise these issues with him he tells me I’m overreacting and that this is his routine. He regularly bemoans my breastfeeding as a way of ‘stopping us’ from going out in the evenings and has continued to neglect my requests for help / support with domestic chores. When baby is ready I will of course look forward to evenings out but at this age (and as she isn’t taking a bottle) I’m not prepared to leave her with relatives and friends in the evenings or overnight. I try my best to encourage him to spend time with me in the late evenings when baby is asleep, but he just wants to camp out in front of the TV. When he is home, he pays little attention to our daughter in terms of play and will only engage with her so that he can post photos on social media. As a result - I’m lonely - frustrated and wanting desperately for him to understand how overwhelming his behaviour is becoming. I fear that he is only interested in the aesthetic of our marriage and family - and has very little interest in how we function practically as a unit. Any advice would be welcomed x
Ask the community | parenting together, baby, new parents
“I hate my partner but we have a child”
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. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________  He's not a bad person. But sometimes I just feel like I hate him. Everything he says, his presence in a room just makes me want to run away. He's a good father, we have a wonderful daughter and I guess that is why I have stayed for so long. We have been together for 6 and half years and I'd say I've known things weren't right for about 5 years. Our daughter is three. I love my daughter so much and want the best for her but I just don't know if I can carry on for much longer. But how can I do that to my daughter? And it's not just taking her away from her father, we have a nice house and a good relationship with his family who help out a lot. Practically our relationship works. The logistics are good, if we split up then we would probably end up with shared custody of our daughter and I want her to have a stable upbringing and not to be carted between two homes. I want to love him... but I feel like I don't even like him. I keep thinking back to when we got together and I just think of events where I should have ended it with him. I have actually tried to end it with him more times than I can remember. Even before we had a child. But he always talks me round. Every time. I just can't leave. I don't think I have the will power. He will cry, or overwhelm me with complements, or give me a sob story and tell me what a good person I am. And then for about half an hour I feel like I want to be with him and that things will be ok. Pretty pathetic right? But then the arguments... well they're vicious. We throw insults about each others family at each other and he says stuff to me which has made me feel so worthless which I don't even want to repeat. And it's always my fault. I always start the fight. Apparently. I 'attack' him. But I'm always the one who ends up sobbing and sometimes after a fight I will just go to bed even in the middle of the day and be unable to get up again. He just won't stop. I want him to leave me alone and even hiding under the covers as a thirty year old woman and humming with my fingers in my ears won't block out the things he is saying to me. He will normally come to me once I'm completely worn out and do the whole 'you're a good person' spiel. I feel trapped. I have been suicidal. I am incredibly bitter and just feel resentful to him almost all the time. You will probably think I am a terrible mother but I'm not. We are both good parents and the really bad stuff we keep away from our daughter. She is a happy confident little girl. From the day that I got pregnant all I have cared about is making sure she is happy and healthy. I don't want to ruin that. I don't want to take her away from her lovely home and her father who she adores. I know suicide is ridiculous and that would completely ruin her life and I would never do anything but I am just really depressed and I don't know if there is any way to improve my relationship. I want to love him but it all just feels so fake when I try to act like I do... Help
Ask the community | arguments, despair
“My husband puts his family ahead of 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 am at my wits end, I really need some guidance as I have exhausted all of my own resources to no avail. I married my husband 2 years ago and we now have an 8 month old daughter. Our relationship has had consistent traits which I could manage before our daughter was born, but find myself unable to do so now. My husband always puts his family first. Our life has revolved around their needs for almost the entire relationship now, and become progressively more of an issue. EG. I work from home, my father in law would come at least once a week to visit during working hours, he would talk and talk for 2-3 hrs and ignore my requests that I really DID need to get back to my work. My husband felt he was showing he cares about me. Our wedding was originally in new york, just the two of us. I did not want a family wedding for 2 reasons, I am divorced (my first husband defrauded £120K from me and then disapeared off the face of the earth, I was granted a divorce and am still repaying what emerged to be online gambling debts he fraudulently and without my knowledge secured against our home) and 2nd because, I wanted I our wedding to be about us, not his family, just us. Our wedding was in the end a large family wedding where every decision was made by his family, any attempt by me to ''push'' what I wanted was met with apolcolyptic abuse and threats. I was to get ready for my wedding in a suite paid for by me, my husbands mother and 2 sisters arrived on my wedding morning and took over this suite, I did not even get to wash my hair. I could not do this the day before because my husbands sister who was a bridesmaid decided she no longer liked her gown, I therefore had to re-model it...., my husbands view? they just wanted to share the day with me....one the birth of my daughter (who sadly was born premature, very low birth weight with various health problems and almost died before she was 4 months old) I stuggled with my own extensive health problems (which were aggravated by the pregnancy) and the extreme worry for my daughter as none of the doctors could work out what was wrong with her. I was told that I would attend his sisters 31st birthday party when my daughter was 5 weeks old. I refused to take her at night to a restaurant when it was virtually impossible to breast feed her in perfect surroundings (she vomited upto 45 times a day - I was breast feeding her for 90 minutes then taking a 60 minute break then a further 90 minutes - round the clock - as she vomited so much, she was losing weight and dehydrating to the point of being life threatening at least twice a week) she was in alot of pain and would cry terribly after feeding. I felt it inappropriate to expect me to consent to a demand (not invitation) to bring my baby to a party under these circumstances. My husbands view - it was his sisters birthday and we should consider her feelings, she would be sad if her brother and neice were not there.....? thoughts anyone, advice???
Ask the community | parenting together, values
Helping children adjust to life in a stepfamily
With higher rates of divorce and separation, stepfamilies are one of the fastest growing forms of family, now making up more than 10% of all families in the UK. After separation, children are more likely to stay with their biological mother. However, the number of children living with their biological father and a stepmother is increasing.   Which children find it easier to adjust to stepfamilies? The younger a child is, the easier they are likely to find it to adjust to a stepfamily. Boys generally seem to find it easier than girls to adjust to stepfamilies. However, in early adolescence, boys and girls alike tend to find it difficult to adjust.   How long does it take children to adjust? It’s important to have a realistic expectation of the time it can take for a new family to establish itself. Don’t expect anything to happen overnight, and be prepared for it to take years for everyone to adjust fully. One source says it can take ‘as many years as the age of the child’. This may be an overestimate but, generally, the older a child is, the longer it can take to adjust.   The effect of successive stepfamilies There is also a link between the number of relationships a child’s parent goes on to have and the child’s behaviour. If you think of later relationships as transitional periods for the child, it’s easy to see how unsettling it can be to have to adjust to another new family and start again. Repeated change can lead to behaviour problems like disobedience and hyperactivity. Some studies have shown that children can find a parent’s remarriage even more stressful than the separation itself. However, children may find it easier to deal with a parent’s new partner if their other natural parent isn’t starting a new relationship at the same time. Having a stable family situation in at least one home seems to be important.   The impact of a new baby on a stepfamily Stepfamilies are often referred to as ‘blended families’ as they can be made up of a variety of step-parents, natural parents, biological siblings and stepsiblings. Many couples also choose to have more children with their new partner. Married couple stepfamilies are more likely than cohabiting couples with stepchildren to go on to have children of their own. Whatever the circumstances, most members of a stepfamily will need time to adjust to the arrival of a new baby.   A new mother in an old family When the baby is a first for the mother but not the father, she may have additional pressures to cope with on top of the stress of new parenthood. Knowing that her partner has been through this process with another woman, she may struggle to feel in control, and worry that her partner knows more about it than she does. She may also feel resentment that her partner is spending time with his older children, especially if she thought that the new baby might bring him closer to his new family.   An old dad in a new family This may also be a difficult time for the prospective father too, as he feels his own needs are squeezed out. For example: His partner may be anxious about the birth and expect his full attention. His biological children may well have become angry or withdrawn. His ex may act out her feelings of betrayal and loss by stepping up demands around money or access arrangements. He may be drawn to his new family and withdraw from the old one just because it seems like the easier option. Fathers of a new child may also try to compensate for the new baby by spending more time and money on children from a previous relationship. Relationships with the ex-partner and grandparents might also become more complicated as everyone adjusts to having a new baby in the family. Stepfamilies also tend to be larger than non-stepfamilies and are more likely to have three or more dependent children than non-stepfamilies.
Article | stepfamily, children
4 min read
Facing problems after a baby arrives
It’s sad to feel like things aren’t what they used to be in your relationship. Having a baby can bring this feeling on overnight, so it’s important to recognise and accept that all relationships change and adapt over time. Having a baby is such an exciting time with so many positives that it’s easy to see why couples expect to feel happier together. It can come as a real shock to find that you aren’t getting on. But research shows that this is normal – parenthood is often the most difficult transition anyone will have to make.   Struggling with new roles When you first become a parent, you may struggle to hold onto a clear sense of who you are. You have to get used to a new identity and sometimes the other roles in your life become secondary, at least in the beginning. This includes your role as a partner. New mums may also find it difficult to adjust to changes in their body like increased weight, stretch marks, sagging and scarring. The demands of breastfeeding can be difficult to adjust to, and many new mums find themselves feeling unattractive or at odds with their body. However, while some mothers and fathers may feel the loss of their old selves, others are happy with their new identity.   Loss of freedom The demands of having a baby to look after can leave you feeling like you no longer have any individual freedom. Many parents struggle with not being able to come and go as they please, or to go out and to enjoy their own interests. Life with children brings a new routine of mealtimes, nap times and bedtimes. Adjusting to this new lifestyle with no let-up can feel very suffocating for some parents and may take a lot of adjusting to.   Changes to other relationships Having a baby can also change your relationships with other people, including your family, friends, parents and in-laws. Many couples find they develop a stronger bond with their own parents and in-laws. This often comes from a combination of enjoying a shared interest in the baby, and a reliance on support with childcare but it isn’t all plain sailing. There are often difficulties with partners’ families, particularly if they interfere with your way of doing things. Some couples struggle with interference or criticism from their own parents, and difficult relationships may become even more strained. Some partners want to go back to the traditional ways of doing things that they were brought up with, which can lead to conflict between couples who have different ways of doing things. New parenthood can stir up past childhood experiences and feelings and it may also stir up old memories of parenting for the new grandparents. If you have difficulties with your parents or in-laws, it’s often best to discuss them with your partner first and work out what you’re going to say. That way you can present a united front and avoid letting your in-laws or parents create any difficulties in your relationship with your partner.   Relationships with friends It can be hard to keep up with old friends, particularly if they don’t have children of their own. They have different schedules and may not understand the demands on your time – especially at the beginning. But having a baby gives you lots of opportunities to make new friends with other new parents, who can be a great source of advice and support.   What else helps? Remember to look after yourself. This means eating well, resting when you can, and exercising if possible. Most importantly, though, try to recognise that things will get easier. Meet other new parents Being with a baby can be lonely and isolating; other new parents can offer support or just be someone to talk to from time to time. Your health visitor or GP may know of local groups, or you can try your local Children’s Centre, library, NCT group, or faith centre. Don’t expect too much of yourself. You, your partner and your family are what matters most, especially when the baby is small. Don’t worry too much about the housework or cooking fancy meals. Most other things can wait. Take time to enjoy your baby. As parents of older children say, the time when your baby is small will fly by (although it may not seem like it!). It won’t be long before they’re off to school or leaving home, so enjoy this time while it lasts.
Article | parenting together, baby, new parents
4 min read
Common problems for couples with a new baby
Having a baby is – usually – a happy event, but it’s also a major milestone that forces changes on your lifestyle and your relationship. Adding a baby into your family dynamic can stir up issues and test you to the limit. Adjusting to the new situation can put a strain on your relationship and it’s normal to feel unsettled. Research shows that many parents feel less satisfied with their relationship after a baby, at least in the short term. This isn’t surprising, since both partners are usually tired, emotional, and often anxious. You may also be worried about issues like money and loss of freedom, or you may be just generally overwhelmed by new responsibilities. Becoming a parent can also bring up difficult memories. It might help to talk to each other about your own experiences of being parented, your expectations, and any feelings you haven’t yet shared. Understanding each other can help you to be more realistic and prepared for the ups and downs of parenthood.   Less time for each other Having a baby means more work and less time for each other. It can be hard to find time alone just to talk and support each other, or to go out as a couple. As your identity shifts from ‘partner’ to ‘parent’, it can feel like a threat to your relationship - this can be particularly tough for dads in the beginning when the mum’s new closeness with the baby is at its strongest. Mums may also feel left out once the baby is a little older and the initial intensity fades.   Lack of sleep… and sex Lack of sleep can leave you feeling permanently exhausted, vulnerable and emotional, so it’s easy to react badly to each other or the baby.  Many couples find their sex lives disrupted, at least in the short term. New mothers often feel too tired and not sexy. Some feel unattractive because of post-baby weight, still sore, or afraid sex will be painful. New fathers can then feel rejected and isolated. Men can also feel differently after childbirth. They often worry about their partner’s physical and emotional changes and are frightened of hurting them. Or they may worry about another pregnancy and the responsibility that goes with it. Breastfeeding also has an impact. It’s usually very tiring and some women say they feel their breasts belong to their baby now. Breastfeeding can lead to temporary physical changes in lubrication that can also make sex painful. Men may need time to adjust to the idea of their partner breastfeeding too. There are no universal rules about how long it should take for both partners to be interested in sex again. Even when the desire returns, you may find that other things – like the baby crying and needing to be fed – get in the way. You might also both be worried that things will never get back to how they were. Talk openly about your feelings and keep reminding each other that this is only temporary.   Having a baby in a stepfamily If you’re already in a stepfamily, having a baby can affect several already fragile relationships. Children may be afraid that their father or mother won’t love them as much anymore, but a stepchild may also be afraid that they will not be as good as their mum or dad’s new baby. Half-brothers and sisters need a lot of reassurance, whatever their age. Babies love anyone who seems interested in them and, as the only member of the family with no ‘baggage’, the baby can help to make things work - especially if you encourage half-brothers and sisters to get involved. There can also be issues when it’s a first baby for one parent and not the other. If you’re a new parent in an established family, it’s natural to feel jealous or resentful if your partner seems to know more about parenting than you do. Even reassuring advice can come across as criticism, so make sure you both tread carefully.   Looking after yourself and your own needs Talking things through with each other can help to take the pressure off. Try to understand each other’s feelings and points of view. It’s much better to talk about things calmly when they come up, rather than letting them build up. Talk to friends and family, particularly those who have been in a similar situation to yours. Sometimes it helps to offload and they may also have helpful suggestions that you hadn’t yet considered. You can’t always have it all – talk to your partner about your priorities in life. Reducing your hours, or getting more expensive and reliable childcare can have a financial impact but could ease pressure in other ways. And remember, things should get easier when the children are older and childcare is less demanding.
Article | parenting together, baby, family
5 min read
Introducing children to new partners
After a divorce or separation, a time comes when new relationships start forming. For some this might start soon – even before the separation - but for others it can be years before they feel ready for another personal relationship. Whenever it happens, it’s worth bearing in mind that new relationships can have an impact on your children and your ex. While it can be an exciting time for you, it might be unsettling for the other people in your life. If you are the parent with the new partner When parents start new relationships, it can be tough for the children. They might feel: jealous that they no longer have you to themselves sad that you and your ex aren’t getting back together insecure about competing for your attention frightened of losing you to your new partner resentful of having to get used to more change anxious about the other parent – will the other parent feel more alone? Will the other parent mind if you like the new partner? Some children will of course feel very positive about new partners, seeing it as a sign that their parents are happier and getting on with their life. See the final section below for tips on supporting children through a difficult transition. If your ex has a new partner If you and your children feel delighted or even relieved when your ex meets someone new, you can skip this section! But if you are upset, shocked or surprised to hear your ex is seeing someone, you may need to call on friends and family to give you some support to adjust to this new development. You may wonder how the new relationship will affect the children. If you and your ex are on good terms, you may be able to talk through these worries together. If you don’t have this kind of relationship with your ex, or if emotions are running high, the introduction of a new partner can be fuel to the fire.  If one parent insists that the new partner should spend time with the children and the other parent doesn’t agree, successful parenting arrangements can fall off the rails. If your children start complaining and criticising the new partner, or even if they just want to spend more time with you, or if they alarm bells can start ringing. Your initial reaction might be to plough in and give your ex a piece of your mind, or even to make the contact conditional on the new partner not being there. Take a moment to consider an alternative explanation. You’re hurting. Your children can see that you’re hurting. What do you think their response to this might be? Children worry that they are betraying their other parent if they accept a new partner. One way of proving their loyalty to you is to say they don’t like the new partner. These loyalty conflicts are particularly bad if parents don’t get on. They might want to spend more time with you because they are worried about you. If you are worried about the impact a new partner is having on your children and you are sure that they are not telling you what they think you want to hear, then ask to speak to your ex. If you are the new partner Meeting and being your partners’ children can be daunting – getting involved in their lives even more so. You will want to support your partner’s relationship with the children and hopefully get along with them too. It can be a minefield. The following tips can help you tread the right path: Allow the relationship to develop slowly. Don’t expect the children to love you or even like you initially. Aim for a relationship where you respect each other and treat each other fairly. Be prepared to accept a back seat when the children are around. Accept that your partner’s first responsibility is to the children. You are not a substitute parent. Be supportive but don’t expect to take on a parenting role. Don’t criticise, complain or even joke about the other parent in front of the children. Remember that part of being a good mum or dad is having a good co-parenting relationship with the other parent. Accept that there will be communication between your partner and their ex about the children. Try to understand the loyalty conflicts your partner might experience and offer an empathetic ear when your partner feels stuck in the middle. If there are disagreements between your partner and their ex, remember that you are only hearing one side of things.   Best tips for helping children with new partners Try to avoid introducing new partners straight after the separation. Children need time to adjust to their parents being separated first. Only introduce children to someone you want to be part of your everyday life. Take it slowly at first and be sensitive to your child’s reactions. Just because you think your new partner is great doesn’t mean that your children will agree. Tell the other parent about your plans before this person is formally introduced to the children. Reassure your ex that the children are still important to you, and be prepared to have a conversation about your new partner’s involvement. Make sure you and the children have some alone time without your new partner. This is especially important if the children don’t live with you. Be clear that the new partner is not a substitute parent. A new partner should behave as any responsible adult would towards children but this is very different from taking on a parenting role. Support your children in adapting to the reality of life moving on. Answer their questions but respect their wishes if they don’t want to talk about the new partner.
Article | children, new partner, parenting together
6 min read
How to cope if your partner already has kids
Having a partner with children from a previous relationship can be challenging for many reasons. In this article, we look at some of the difficulties you may face and how best to deal with them. Children are a constant reminder of your partner’s previous relationship. Even if you have accepted that your partner’s children are ‘part of the package’, you may not have counted on your partner's ex being part of it too. The need for your partner to see and communicate with their ex can feel threatening if you are not secure within the relationship or if the relationship is still in its early days.   Tip: Remember that part of being a good mum or dad is having a good parenting relationship with the other parent. Accept that there will be communication about the children between your partner and their ex. You may wonder sometimes where your partner’s loyalties lie – it may seem like their previous family’s needs always seem to come before yours. Tip: Try to understand the loyalty conflicts your partner might be experiencing. It will help your relationship if you can empathise (even if you don’t like it!) when your partner feels like ‘piggy in the middle’ between you and their previous family. It can be hard to know what kind of relationship you can expect to have with your partner’s children. Tip: Allow the relationship to develop slowly. Don’t expect the children to love or even like you straight away. Aim for a relationship where you respect each other and treat each other fairly. You are not a substitute parent - be supportive but don’t expect to take on a parenting role. When your partner is having problems with their ex, it can put a big strain on your relationship. You want to help but feel powerless to change the situation. Tip: It is important not to take out your frustrations in front of the children, as this can make matters worse. Don’t criticise, complain or even joke about the other parent in front of the children. It’s also probably best if you confine your role to supporting your partner rather than getting directly involved in disagreements.
Article | mixed families, parenting together
2 min read

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