Working with couples who have separated or who are divorcing is what I enjoy despite it often being conflict driven, challenging to facilitate positive communication and resolution and at times having to accept I will be caught in the crossfire!
I get to see good parents going through one of the worst times of their lives step up and be great parents. As a Family Consultant I get to support people in trying to separate their own emotions from that of their children, and not just that but, their own needs from that of their children.
There is nothing more rewarding than having a family come back for a check in after a year and tell me about the good Christmas they just had, a family day out together or share in the laughter of a mishap one of their children had in the school play.
When parents who had had a tricky start can describe how they have helped and supported each other as co-parents, despite not always agreeing on issues, I feel my job is worthwhile.
To be clear, when I started working with the families mentioned above, they were not on the same page. It took time, humility, some tears and most importantly trust. Not in each other as there used to be, but trust in the fact they loved their child as much as each other, even if they parented differently. It isn’t an easy thing.
Some couples are starting at a place which is further apart, more fearful or where they are carrying more emotional bruises. These families have typically been through the court system. Where they have been defensive and attacking to each other, where they have felt they had to fight, and where they are worn down, battered and unable to have any communication.
In the middle of this are their children. Shipped from home to home without the safe link of communication and care between the adults in their lives, they are forced to carry the unwanted responsibility of arrangements, sharing facts, protecting siblings or even protecting parents. Where children hear nothing positive from each parent about the other, where parents do not support their children’s relationships with the other parent, or where only negative words are spoken and there is no way of sharing the truth of the relationship with the other parent for the child’s fear of letting a parent down, or loosing the love of a parent.
These parents need more support to be able to reconnect around the children. The Middle Ground Parenting Programme came about in response to working with these families.
We understood that there was a lot of residual pain, mistrust and damage that had been done. We recognised that it often didn’t feel safe to have a ‘facilitated’ conversation, even by an experienced professional in what was a safe space. That there was usually absolutely nothing positive that could be thought about by each parent to the other and that they were really worried about the impact the other parent was having on their children.
In the Middle Ground Programme each parent has their own Family Consultant to work with individually and in the joint meetings. We Family Consultants are trained and experienced in working psychotherapeutically with individuals, children and families. We are able to respond and work dynamically with every family around their own issues, we are not just trainers running a course.
We create a safe place and help our clients to express their thoughts and feelings about what has happened to their family. To look at how they got there and what hopes may have been shattered. What separates these sessions from ‘cosy counselling’ sessions is that we also then encourage our clients to see what responsibility they can take for where they have arrived, and this is usually one of the harder parts of our work. It can be really challenging for clients.
It is much easier to blame each other, but it doesn’t get us anywhere.
Without being able to understand how we have contributed to a situation we can feel powerless. By taking responsibility, accepting our own emotions, forgiving our own mistakes and looking at our shadow sides, we empower ourselves. This is where the individual sessions weaved throughout the joint sessions are most helpful.
We help you prepare for joint meetings and we explore the communication afterwards. What we sometimes intend to say to someone isn’t always what we give. We can also have our experience filters set a little incorrectly, so we don’t hear what we aren’t expecting to hear and can miss interpret or not recognise when the other parent is starting to offer something different.
The joint meetings offer a space to share and hear each others ideas and hopes. We have discussions around the themes or arrangements which need deciding and can draw it up into a plan if needed.
We can’t do it for parents, we can’t change the other parent into a different person, but our programme can support you in what you are dealing with, we can hold you as you heal and give gentle nudges in the right direction. We also hold hope, we know parents usually want the best for their children and we have watched parents work really really hard with this in mind, we know it can be done.
The clients we have worked with so far in this programme have reported better communication with their ex partners, less conflict, less weight on the shoulders of their children, more understanding of themselves and the dynamics with the other parent and relief at having a space to bring issues to.
To register interest for the programme simply contact Leia Monsoon or Kim Crewe.