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Health and relationships
The quality of your relationship with your partner (and with friends, colleagues and family members) affects both your mental and physical wellbeing. Similarly, how good you feel emotionally and physically can affect how you get on with your partner - perhaps even more than you realise. |[profileDataBundle id=1]| Improving your relationship quality can have a positive effect on your health, affecting related behaviours like exercising and drinking that can, in turn, affect how you get on. Of course, relationships go through ups and downs. But when we are unhappy or frustrated it’s easy to ignore what we know is good for us. Risky behaviours can provide an escape but sometimes we can fall into habits that are bad for both our health and our relationship. The good news is that, by taking stock and taking a good look at our patterns of behaviour, we can start making a few changes and things can start feeling very different. Have a look at the following questions and then share your answers with your partner. This can help you to assess the bigger picture and start changing some of the behaviours that could be affecting your relationship. Overall, how well do you feel on a day-to-day basis? Where would you score your physical health on a scale of one to 10, with ten being best it can be? Do you smoke? If so, how much, and at what times of day? What are your triggers for smoking? How often do you drink? Do you drink to unwind, to be social, or to shut things out? How well do you eat? Do you and your partner eat together – are cooking and eating well important parts of your relationship? Are you over or underweight? How do you feel about your body? How well do you sleep? –What, if anything keeps you awake? Can you see any patterns? Do you exercise regularly? How do you feel after exercising? How often do you have sex? Do you enjoy sex with your partner? Are you currently working? How does your work affect how you feel? If you have a bad day at work, what impact does it have on your home life? How do you know you are overstressed? What are the signs? What makes you feel good physically? What makes you feel good emotionally?   What next? Have a look at your answers. How does the overall picture look? Does it look good or feel a bit overwhelming? Are there any patterns you’d like to change? If you have any habits or recurring behaviours that aren’t serving you, look at the underlying reasons. Take it slowly – recognising the need for change is a crucial first step. Don’t try to change everything at once. If you are a smoker, that’s a good place to start. Consider cutting down, or just keeping a log of when you smoke and how you feel before and after. Start to notice what need you are trying to fulfil by smoking, and whether it’s working for you. If you want to eat better, start by introducing some small changes to your diet. Get a new cookbook or look up some recipes online. Experimenting with new dishes can be fun. Set aside some time to plan and cook a healthy meal with your partner – this one positive shared experience could be the first step towards getting out of a mealtime rut. Poor sleep, drinking too much and work stress are all issues that can contribute to how you get on with your partner, often leading to arguments. It can feel overwhelming to address these issues at once – a good place to start might be taking some regular exercise. It doesn’t matter what, so long as it is something you can enjoy that fits in with your work and family demands. Exercise can also have a positive impact on other areas of your life, releasing natural chemicals that improve your mood and make you feel happier. Adopting a more active lifestyle can improve your mental health, giving you a positive reminder you that the choices you make affect how you feel. Leading a more active life can give you a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life, and help you sleep better. It can improve your self-esteem and confidence, helping you feel more valued, and more attractive. Exercise and physical activity can give you something positive to strive for and commit to. It can help you to stop dwelling on problems and, in time, you may even start to enjoy it!   A word of warning! If this exercise has brought up any issues you find difficult to talk about, you may find it helpful to use some of the communication exercises and articles elsewhere on the site. If you have identified that you or your partner are drinking too much, you may need to seek professional help – looking at the articles on addiction on the site can be a positive first step.
Article | Health
7 5 min read
“I want to get away from my husband”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   Hi Please bear with me whilst i explain, but i really need some advice if possible. I have checked my husbands facebook this morning, i dont know why as i havnt for a long time and promised to stop doing it ( i used to as he has cheated several times in the past) and i have seen a message from someone i think he had an affair with years ago, but never could prove it. The message i think was her follow up to meeting him at work, where she has told him something, i dont know what, but she did say something along the lines of 'i hope your ok, i just thought you should know as its your marriage on the line, and i didnt think it was fair even if she didn't go through with it' i have no idea what that was referring to, but to me it sounds like he has been up to something with someone and its about to come out? its left me really confused, because looking through his facebook and he has been looking at hot tub getaways for us secretly (our anniversary is coming up), he says lovely things on facebook about me and doesn't seem to be having an affair? but i cant ask him what it is all about otherwise he will know iv been on his facebook again. The trouble is it is eating away at me, and i've come to realise today that i don't trust him, not one bit! Im a nervous wreck when he goes out and look for clues he may have been with someone, i hate when he gets drunk as he loses morals,and sometimes he will start being cocky and starts with all the insults, he gets at the kids who are autistic and its really unfair to them, and he is drinking a lot lately, every night in fact but most weekends are spent with him being drunk or hungover. His dad is an alcoholic and my husband is going the same way, i thought he was getting help but he wasn't turning up to the sessions, a letter came through the post saying they were sorry he couldn't attend but he denied it, and said they must have made a mistake. I've had enough and want to leave, right now! But i dont know how to, i have 3 kids, no money, nowhere to go, so i am trapped. I need to go away from him altogether, we have tried to split up several times in the past but he always sweet talks his way back. If i don't do it now then ill go on for the next few weeks/months with it all going round in my head and pretending everything is fine, then ill never do it, at all. i cant keep going through this but i just don't know how to break away, if i ask him to leave he will find ways to keep coming back, obviously the kids are one excuse for him, and i'm too soft with him. I don't want to take the kids away from him, i wouldn't do that, but i just need to be away from him for now, but cant leave him with the kids so i'm stuck. It might seem i'm being a bit hasty but i have had enough of this over the years, that message was the last straw, and the fact i'm still checking up on him says it all really. how do i break free? i really need some advice on where to start if possible. thanks in advance x
Ask the community | trust, jealousy
“Crushing on someone else”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   I have a boyfriend, we dated for 7 months so far. He’s white, tall, gorgeous, pretty, nice blue eyes. But he is so clingy and he never had great relationships in his past. He always got cheated on with his past relationships. Pretty much every single one of them. I don’t kno why that happened to him. I think cause he is such a nice guy and very sweet and he’s sensitive and very clingy. And he can take advantage of pretty easy. Like 3 months later of dating, I met this other guy from work. And he is so cute. He is very cute. I had a crush on him. And he’s white also. Which that doesn’t happened to me. I don’t get white guys to like me or have an interest in me. My boyfriend is the first white guy I ever dated and I am shocked and surprised and I don’t wanna lose him cause he’s literally perfect but I don’t wanna be in a relationship. I wanna be single. I’m young , I wanna fun. I don’t wanna settle down. I never got the chance to be by myself and be single. I always been with a boyfriend then break up, then another right after 1 or 2 months, literally. I didn’t have time to be single for a good ass time since I started to date date. My first boyfriend was black, dated 9 months. 2 months later, I had another boyfriend, Hispanic, 9 months or 10, broke up, 2 months apart, got back together 10 more months then broke up. 1 month later, I met the guy I’m with now. So yup. The second boyfriend it was tough on me, I fell in love. He was my love. The love of my life. Even to this day he is still the love of my life. I’m not sure if I’m gonna fall in love again. It’s rare. But yeah, so the guy that I have a crush on. He likes me back. That never happened. A white guy. No. And me and him, we texted, talked on the phone. Etc. he doesn’t know I have a boyfriend, I don’t wanna tell him cause I think he doesn’t wanna deal with me no more. I don’t want anything serious with him. Just to have fun and hang. But I can’t do that behind my boyfriend’s back. That’s the thing , I don’t wanna be in a committed relationship but I love my boyfriend. I’m not madlyyyy in love. But I do love him. I don’t wanna lose him cause I know for a fact I won’t find someone else like him. He’s very gorgeous btw like a model. He could be one. So it’s hard to find a guy like that. I wanna be in an open relationship with him because I don’t want to cheat on him also I don’t wanna be nervous every single time when I text a dude or talk to a dude but I’m scared, I know for a fact that he won’t like that. I just wanna mingle other guys, but I still wanna have my boyfriend. And the guy I like, I have feelings for him and I’m scared to fallll for him. I can’t. But at the same time, I wanna be with him like hang out and do fun stuff. It’s hard. I don’t know why I got myself in this mess. All I want is life is to be alone forever. I wanna be alone . But I don’t really wanna be alone alone. Also one time my boyfriend found out I was texting a dude. He fucking went thru my shit. Privacy man. Like wtf. I was pissed. And he was like what is this? Who is this? Etc. and yelling at me and he said that he’s breaking up with me. But I stood my ground and fought for us. I was stupid. We should have broken up. It would be easier but also I don’t wanna lose him. I really don’t. And ever since then , the incident, he doesn’t trust me. At all. Like he wanna see my phone, messages , constantly texting back and forth 24/7. He wanna kno where I’m at and such , what I’m doing. It’s soooo annoying. I don’t have my freedom. I’m not 17 years old or 16. I’m 20. Like come on. So I can’t do anything behind his back cause he is soooo clingy and he is always behind my back so I can’t do shit. It just sad. My whole love life is sad. I can’t never be happy. I’m never happy. Which is okay. I have been thru so much worse. So I don’t know what to do with my boyfriend or the guy that I have a crush on. Basically the whole situation.
Ask the community | communication, arguments
Being parents to disabled children part 2
In part one of “The positives of being a parent to a disabled child” we found that, despite facing greater challenges, parents with a disabled child often reported that their child’s disability had a positive effect on their lives.  “Indeed, irrespective of the child’s impairment type (e.g. ASD, cerebral palsy), approximately two out of three parents in this study agreed that, overall, having a disabled child has been positive for their family.” We drew from a study of 175 parents and started looking at what they meant by ‘positive’. Here’s what else parents had to say: “I’ve become a stronger and more compassionate person”  When care and attention is highly demanding, sometimes people find out what they’re really made of, and what their relationship is made of too. Demanding times often reveal the point where your resolve begins to wear thin, or where you start to buckle. As a parent in this situation, the love for your child and your commitment to caring for them could strengthen that resolve in a way that surpasses your own expectations. Just as athletes can tap into a hidden pool of strength in the final lap of a 10,000-metre run, parents also find energy, patience and, endurance they didn’t know they had. As a parent, you face the added mental challenge of knowing you cannot quit or duck out but, much like that athlete, it’s your team of family, friends, and support networks that enables you to keep going.  ‘As a result of having a child with a disability, our family unit has emerged stronger’; [B3] This extra energy to keep going can show parents how much they’re willing to give of themselves, which may surprise them. Especially those that perhaps considered themselves to be less caring or compassionate in nature.  “I’ve been able to laugh more, and I’m less bothered by trivial things” Parents facing additional challenges can sometimes gain a focus and a perspective that others do not seem to share. And that perspective – what matters and what doesn’t – can become something that sets those parents free from the humdrum of daily life. This perspective isn’t easily taught either. As people who get bent out of shape over trivial things will tell you, to them they’re not trivial issues – they’re deadly serious ones. Perspective is also coupled with resilience. Having bounced back from a series of challenges, you’re more likely to know what is worth your energy and what isn’t. Without realising it, you’ve probably become very good at estimating the value of your energy, your effort and your time. This might explain why parents with disabled children can sometimes enjoy life more, and laugh at the silly things, rather than be upset by them. Now that you’ve seen what other parents have to say about their experiences and how it’s shaped them, we’d love to hear your story. Have you, your relationship, or your family been changed for the better through your experience? Either leave us a comment, or get in touch with Contact. References [1] David McConnell, Amber Savage, Dick Sobsey & Bruce Uditsky (2015) Benefit-finding or finding benefits? The positive impact of having a disabled child, Disability & Society, 30(1), pp.29-45.
Article | parenting together, disability
0 2 min read
Disabled children and interfering in-laws
When you’re the parent of a disabled child, there’s a lot of information to absorb. Some of this can be useful but, like all parents, you may also find yourselves on the receiving end of unsolicited tips, advice, and wisdom. When it comes from your in-laws, it can be hard to know where to draw the line. In-laws can be a be a valuable source of emotional, financial, and practical support [1]. Depending on where they live, they can be a useful source of childcare, and play a valuable part in helping your children develop new skills [2]. Many can represent a calming influence during new and stressful situations that they already know their way around. As a parent of a disabled child, the issue becomes more complex. There are medical, social, and educational factors to consider that your and your partner’s parents may never have had to deal with before. Even if their parenting expertise hasn’t gone out of date, it may not be relevant to your child’s specific needs. However difficult your in-laws might be, it’s worth remembering that they have raised children too – they even raised someone that you fell in love with! But that doesn’t mean they’re always right. If their attempts to offer support just lead to arguments, the support itself may not be worth the emotional price you pay for it [3]. As the parent, it’s up to you to accept or reject offers of support. While your in-laws may have some useful nuggets, you and your partner are the ones who have access to the full picture as to what’s best for your child. Annoying in-laws If your in-laws are constantly texting bits of unhelpful advice, or if they come to the house and criticise a routine that you’ve been working hard to establish with the support of your child’s care team, then you need to find a way to respond. While the most obvious and possibly most satisfying response is to tackle them directly, this could lead to unnecessary arguments. Even when you know you are right, you still run the risk of turning your in-laws against you and upsetting your partner. The most effective way to deal with interfering in-laws is to talk to your partner first [4]. Speak openly to your partner about how you feel and why you’re concerned. As with any difficult conversation, start by talking about your own feelings, stick to the issue at hand, and give your partner a chance to digest what you’ve said. Don’t criticise or attack your in-laws – your partner has had to deal with them a lot longer than you have, and you don’t want to provoke a defensive reaction! Differences of opinion When you become parents, your priorities shift and your relationships change. This can include a rise in conflict with your in-laws. If you get on very well with them, this might just mean a few tiffs but, if you’re already prone to rowing, things could turn very stormy [5]. This makes sense as there’s more at stake than before – the little things you used to be able to ignore now need to be addressed head-on. Like you, your parents-in-law want the best for your child. Unlike you, they’re not around every day to make fully informed decisions about what’s actually best. If they start getting more involved than you want them to, it can feel intrusive and controlling. This can lead to problems between you and your partner, as you battle to strike the right balance [5]. Creating an effective boundary can be difficult. You and your partner will have to decide what’s acceptable and what’s not. You might want to agree a strategy in advance – for example, any time your parents or in-laws offer tips, thank them, and let them know you’ll consider their advice. You and your partner can then discuss the advice in private and make an appropriate decision. Sharing information It can be very helpful to update your in-laws on any information you learn about your disabled child. This could include medical information, or any strategies you’ve learned from your paediatrician, speech and language therapist, or other trusted provider like a charity or the NHS. If you have this information written down or printed out, show it to them, or ask your partner to. Discuss the information to help them understand what you’re trying to achieve with your child. It may also help them understand that you and your partner are in touch with the authoritative experts so they do not need to worry constantly that you may be doing the wrong thing! Getting to know your in-laws better Being on good terms with your in-laws can have unexpected positive side effects. One study found that couples who have closer ties to their in-laws tend to be happier and more satisfied with their own relationships [6]. So, rather than shutting them out, ask yourself it it’s possible to get to know your in-laws a little better. Take the opportunity to learn more about your partner’s background; encourage your in-laws to talk about the family history and customs. These conversations can help you form a bond, and may even have a positive impact on your relationship with your partner [7]. If you continue to struggle with your in-laws, take some comfort from the possibility that things can improve over time. Even the most vocal in-laws are capable of changing and coming around to accept your way of doing things. References [1] Goetting, A. (1990). Patterns of Support Among In-Laws in the United States A Review of Research. Journal of Family Issues, 11(1), 67–90. [2] Enyart, S. (2012). The transition to extended family: Examining the links between turbulence and children-in-laws’ goals, topic avoidance, and relational outcomes. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. [3] Schober, P. S. (2013). Gender Equality and Outsourcing of Domestic Work, Childbearing, and Relationship Stability Among British Couples. Journal of Family Issues, 34(1), 25–52. [4] Rittenour, E. C., and Kellas, K. J. (2015). Making Sense of Hurtful Mother-in-law Messages: Applying Attribution Theory to the In-Law Triad. Communication Quarterly, 63(1), 62–68. [5] Bryant, C.M., Conger., R.D., and Meehan., J.M. (2001). The Influence of In-Laws on Change in Marital Success. Journal of Marriage and Family, 63(3), 614-626. [6] [Timmer, S.G., and Veroff, J. (2000). Family Ties and the Discontinuity of Divorce in Black and White Newlywed Couples. Journal of Marriage and Family, 62(2), 349-361.   [7] Serewicz, M.C.M., Hosmer, R., Ballard, R.L., and Griffin, R. A. (2008). Disclosure from In-laws and the Quality of In-law and Marital Relationships. Communication Quarterly, 56(4), 427–444.
Article | grandparents, parenting, disability
0 2 min read
Considering having another child
For any parents, having another child is a big decision that requires serious consideration. So, if you are thinking about having another child, it’s likely your discussion will be affected by the financial, social, and health factors already in play in your lives. As parents of disabled children, you may be feeling this even more strongly. Studies have shown that parents raising children with disabilities are more likely to experience mental health issues such as anxiety, stress, and depression, (Stoneman, 2007) as well as relationship difficulties and problems at work (Simsek et al., 2015). One study asked parents of disabled children their thoughts around having another child. The main concerns included: Having less time to care for existing children Not having enough money to care for another child Risk of health problems in the next child (Simsek et al., 2015) Siblings You may also be concerned about what kind of life another child would have as the sibling of someone who requires regular extra care. You might be worried that your next child would have a stressful life, or that you wouldn’t be able to dedicate as much time to them as you would like to. This is certainly worth considering - some studies have shown that siblings of disabled children can experience increased stress in their lives (Murray, 2000) (Javadian, 2011). However, there is also evidence of siblings feeling a positive benefit of living with a disabled sibling. Children who are involved in the care of disabled siblings can grow up learning to be more helpful and compassionate than other children, and may also develop greater emotional awareness (Javadian, 2011) (Fisman et al., 1996). How will having another child affect your relationship? While parents of disabled children are statistically more likely to separate (Gardener and Harmon, 2002) (Patterson, 2002), many couples have a much more positive experience, and find that their relationship is strengthened and their bond solidified. Parents of children with additional needs have to rely on each other for support, and this can benefit your couple relationship, bringing you closer together (Simsek et al., 2015). It’s likely that you’ll have a lot to think about as you make a decision around whether or not to try for another child. However, depending on your experiences, you may feel more confident knowing that you’ve made it this far, learning and growing together. Whatever other factors you need to consider, the fact that you are thinking about it at all could be a positive sign about the strength of your relationship as a couple, and your capacity as parents. References Cahill, B. M., & Glidden, L. M. (1996). Influence of child diagnosis on family and parental functioning: Down syndrome versus other disabilities. American journal of mental retardation: AJMR, 101(2), 149-160. Fisman, S., Wolf, L., Ellison, D., Gillis, B., Freeman, T., & Szatmari, P. (1996). Risk and protective factors affecting the adjustment of siblings of children with chronic disabilities. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 35(11), 1532-1541. Gardner, J., & Harmon, T. (2002). Exploring resilience from a parent’s perspective: A qualitative study of six resilient mothers of children with an intellectual disability. Australian Social Work, 55(1), 60-68. Javadian, R. (2011). A comparative study of adaptability and cohesion in families with and without a disabled child. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 30, 2625-2630. Kearney, P. M., & Griffin, T. (2001). Between joy and sorrow: being a parent of a child with developmental disability. Journal of advanced nursing, 34(5), 582-592. Marsh, J. C. (2003). Editorial: Arguments for Family Strengths Research. Social Work, 48(2), 147-149. Murray, J. S. (2000). Attachment theory and adjustment difficulties in siblings of children with cancer. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 21(2), 149-169. Patterson, J. M. (2002). Integrating family resilience and family stress theory. Journal of marriage and family, 64(2), 349-360. Şimşek, T. T., Taşçı, M., & Karabulut, D. (2015). Desire to have other children in families with a chronically disabled child and its effect on the relationship of the parents. Turkish Archives of Pediatrics/Türk Pediatri Arşivi, 50(3), 163. Stoneman, Z., & Gavidia-Payne, S. (2006). Marital adjustment in families of young children with disabilities: Associations with daily hassles and problem-focused coping. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 111(1), 1-14.
Article | parenting, disability, children
0 2 min read
Co-parenting a disabled child
All relationships go through periods of change and challenge. Some parents find these experiences bring them closer together, while others are overwhelmed by the experience and struggle to stay together. If things have broken down and you have decided to separate, we have some hints and tips to help you carry on caring for your child, whether you live with them or not.No longer living under the same roof as your children will inevitably affect the level of contact you have with them and it will usually be necessary to agree contact arrangements with your former partner. Legally, a person with parental responsibility cannot be denied contact with their child without the intervention of the courts. Of course, it will usually be best if both parents can discuss and agree appropriate arrangements informally. You’ll need to work together with your ex to ensure you can provide the full support your child needs from both parents. Parental involvement is one of the most important factors in how disabled children integrate into school and social life [4] and non-resident parents play an important role in this [5]. As separated parents, working together makes you more effective at providing a responsive parenting role, and more likely to have a better relationship with your child [6].This kind of collaboration between separated parents is known as co-parenting. Communicating with your ex For some parents, having to maintain contact with one another and sort out arrangements for the children can be a huge strain. If you’re still upset with your ex-partner, you may be finding it difficult to communicate with them. However, it’s important to try and set your disagreements aside long enough to get your living arrangements in order and make a collaborative parenting plan that means your child has a stable environment or environments where they can get the best possible support from both of you [3]. Here are some tips to help you communicate with your ex and protect your children from any fallout from the separation:   avoid blaming yourself or your partner agree not to let your own relationship issues get into the discussion create some rules together about how best to manage meetings continue at another time if you feel discussions sliding into tricky waters don’t communicate with your partner through your child focus on child-related issues; it can help keep your dialogue clear and to the point work on a parenting plan together don’t argue with your partner about the children in front of them. This will only increase their sense of guilt and blame about the break up. Supporting your children Helping your child through a period of separation or divorce is challenging as you come to terms with your own feelings. But there are things you can do that can help. Keeping children informed about what is happening will help to prevent them blaming themselves and worrying unnecessarily. You can help children feel more secure by helping them to express their feelings, letting them know that you understand how they feel, and making sure they feel they can ask questions if they want to, will help. Children often feel a great sense of loss and letting them grieve is an important part of helping them to deal with the situation and to move on to accept the changes in their family relationships. They may also express anger towards you, whilst this can be hurtful, try not to take it too personally as it can be a sign they are finding it hard to cope. Denial is also a common response. A child will naturally have hopes and fantasies about the family, such as wanting you all to be reunited. Talking about these feelings, without raising false hopes, will help your child to move on. Avoid criticising your ex-partner in front of the children. It can be very upsetting for them and leave them feeling forced to take sides. Mothers and fathers Research has shown that mothers and fathers of disabled children can experience stress differently. Mothers’ stress tends to be focused around the daily caring tasks [7], while fathers are more likely to worry about their emotional attachment with the child [8]. If you are the parent with the main caring duties, you may need to ask for some extra support from friends and family to help you stay on top of daily care. If you are the non-resident parent, you may want to schedule in regular phone calls between visits to help stay in touch and maintain the connection with your child. Working together As a co-parent, you still have a parenting role to perform, even if you don’t live with your child. While you may not be in a couple relationship anymore, you and your child’s other parent will need to maintain a co-operative parenting relationship to give your child the maximum benefit of your care. If you are the resident parent, part of your role will be to share information with your child’s other parent and, assuming it is safe and meets any court requirements in place, ensure that they have access to your child. While it can be hard to let your ex-partner into your routines, it’s important to be open and welcoming for the sake of your child, particularly when there is important information to share about medical care and other additional needs [1]. Face-to-face visits are the best way to maintain good quality parent-child relationships but if you live a long way away from your child, frequent contact through emails, phone calls, or video calls can help make up for some of this distance [9]. Staying in touch with your ex can also help you plan for unexpected events, like your child leaving something they need at the other parent’s home. You don’t necessarily have to spend intensive time together, as long as you both commit to the agreed arrangements and stay in touch about important decisions. If you are struggling to maintain a good relationship with your child’s other parent, you can use the free parenting plan at Splitting Up? Put Kids First to keep on top of parenting arrangements without having to interact directly. References [1] Newacheck, P. W., Inkelas, M., & Kim, S. E. (2004). Health services use and health care expenditures for children with disabilities. Pediatrics, 114(1), 79-85. [2] Roberts, K., & Lawton, D. (2001). Acknowledging the extra care parents give their disabled children. Child: care, health and development, 27(4), 307-319. [3] Shandra, C. L., Hogan, D. P., & Spearin, C. E. (2008). Parenting a child with a disability: An examination of resident and non-resident fathers. Journal of Population Research, 25(3), 357-377. [4] Pascall, G., & Hendey, N. (2004). Disability and transition to adulthood: the politics of parenting. Critical Social Policy, 24(2), 165-186. [5] Amato, P. R., & Gilbreth, J. G. (1999). Nonresident fathers and children's well-being: A meta-analysis. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 557-573. [6] Sobolewski, J. M., & King, V. (2005). The importance of the coparental relationship for nonresident fathers’ ties to children. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67(5), 1196-1212. [7] Pelchat, D., Lefebvre, H., & Perreault, M. (2003). Differences and similarities between mothers’ and fathers’ experiences of parenting a child with a disability. Journal of child health care, 7(4), 231-247. [8] Cohen, M. S. (1999). Families coping with childhood chronic illness: A research review. Families, Systems, & Health, 17(2), 149. [9] McGene, J., & King, V. (2012). Implications of new marriages and children for coparenting in nonresident father families. Journal of family issues, 33(12), 1619-1641.
Article | co-parenting, parenting apart
0 5 min read
Planning a stepfamily
Becoming a step parent can be one of the most challenging and rewarding things a person can do. And when you join a family where one or more of the children is disabled, you may soon find that good planning is one of the key ingredients to making your new family’s life a success. Different sets of values, attitudes and feelings can lead to stress for children and conflict for adults – but these risks can be reduced with proper planning [1].   Because routines can be so important for disabled children, in the beginning, it’s best to try and settle gradually into the existing way of life of your new family, watching and learning how things are done, and offering help where needed. Your partner and their other children (if they have them) will have spent years looking after the disabled child, working out what works best, so may not appreciate you coming in trying to change things, no matter how well meaning you are. Where possible, try to make sure the children are involved in any decisions you make with your partner. Children who feel they have a say in the transition are more likely to accept a new step-parent, rather than seeing them as a threat to their own parent’s attention [2]. It’s good to talk Your role in the first instance should be to learn the ropes, but it’s important to talk openly with your partner about what your involvement will be. Parents who form new relationships tend to be more likely to avoid talking about relationship and family issues than couples entering their first marriage [3], possibly due to past experiences of marriage and parenting [4]. However, while it can be scary to tackle difficult issues, open communication can minimise the risk of conflict, and better prepare you for the unique challenges that your new life as a step-parent is going to bring [1]. Sit down with your partner and talk clearly about any questions you have about your stepchild’s care. In the long run, clear communication will help you get through tough times. Follow your partner’s lead It’s likely that your partner will have a good understanding of their child’s needs, alongside a number of care routines. Even if you have wildly different opinions about how things should be done, it’s best to try and fit into existing routines, at least in the beginning. You may end up providing a lot of care for your new stepchild and, as you get to know each other better, it may become natural to suggest little changes. In the beginning, however, it’s going to be a lot simpler to follow your partner’s lead until you have a strong sense of why things are done the way they are. Planning and prep  When forming a new stepfamily, it’s very important to take things slowly, plan things properly, and keep lines of communication open. Keeping everything out in the open can help prevent arguments later down the line. Talk about how you are going to handle certain situations, and identify any issues that you might encounter so you can be ready to deal with things together. This can help the whole family to adjust slowly and handle the changes more confidently [5]. Be patient Your partner may want to introduce you to the family gradually, and this can help ease the transition for you. Children cope better when they have a chance to get to know their new step-parent slowly [5]. You may find that taking on the caring duties of a disabled child is more stressful and tiring than you’d first thought, and there may be times when you wonder if you’ve taken on more than you can handle. It’s important to be patient with yourself and your step child, and to remember to take some time for yourself to rest and relax, and to be a partner and a lover as well as a step-parent. The better rested you are, the better equipped you’ll be to support your stepchild, so try to take some time for yourself to pursue your own interests, spend time with your partner, your friends, and your other children if you have them. While it may feel like a luxury to look after yourself, you’ll be better able to look after your family when you’re taking good care of yourself. It’s sometimes possible to get outside help to allow you to take respite breaks. Your partner may have information on this already or, if not, you can find information through your child’s social workers or medical care providers.  Being a step-parent is not always going to be easy. Many step-parents talk about having to do a balancing act, where they fulfill the role of a parenting figure, without stepping too far into the domain of the natural parent. Step-parents who try to exert authority before the children have accepted them can often come up against resistance, so you may have to defer certain issues to the children’s primary carer, at least in the beginning [6] [7]. In time, though, you’ll find your patience pays off, as you settle into your new role as a partner, caregiver, and step-parent. For information on how to get a short break please see Contact's information on short breaks.  All family members, including step parents, are welcome to contact the freephone helpline to talk about any questions you may have about caring for your disabled step child, including education, finances, and information about your child’s condition. They also have information for siblings, grandparents, fathers and looking after your relationship. You can call them on 0808 808 3555, or email helpline@contact.org.uk References    [1] Pace, G. T., Shafer, K., Jensen, T. M., & Larson, J. H. (2015). Stepparenting issues and relationship quality: The role of clear communication. Journal of Social Work, 15(1), 24-44. [2] Visher, E. B., Visher, J. S., & Pasley, K. (2003). Remarriage families and stepparenting. Normal family processes: growing diversity and complexity, 3, 153-175. [3] Afifi, T. D., & Schrodt, P. (2003). Uncertainty and the Avoidance of the State of One's Family in Stepfamilies, Postdivorce Single‐Parent Families, and First‐Marriage Families. Human Communication Research, 29(4), 516-532. [4] Sweeper, S., & Halford, K. (2006). Assessing adult adjustment to relationship separation: The Psychological Adjustment to Separation Test (PAST). Journal of Family Psychology, 20(4), 632. [5] Cartwright, C. (2010). Preparing to repartner and live in a stepfamily: An exploratory investigation. Journal of Family Studies, 16(3), 237-250. [6] Hetherington, E. M., & Kelly, J. (2002). Divorce reconsidered: For better or worse. [7] Kinniburgh-White, R., Cartwright, C., & Seymour, F. (2010). Young adults’ narratives of relational development with stepfathers. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 27(7), 890-907.
Article | stepfamily, parenting, disability
0 4 min read
Children in hospital
When your child has a disability or long-term illness, hospital stays might be a familiar part of your life. But hospitals can be stressful places, and managing a stay can be tough for you as parents [1], both practically and emotionally.  You may worry about leaving your child in the care of hospital staff, particularly if your child has communication difficulties and important decisions are being made [2]. Younger people with learning disabilities can often find it difficult being understood in hospital settings [3]. Dealing with hospital staff If you’re having difficulty accessing the support and services your child needs, it can have a significant impact on you and your partner [4]. It can sometimes feel like hospital staff don’t know how to offer the care your child needs [5] and you may find yourself going over the same things as you are passed from one practitioner to the next. One way to ensure your child’s needs are properly considered is by using a hospital or communication passport for your child. A hospital passport is a booklet that you can use to pass on crucial information about a child or young person with additional needs. It contains information about their condition, medications, likes and dislikes, and essential information if an emergency happens. This can ensure that all the professionals who come into contact with you and your child have the same information without you having to keep explaining things. This can be particularly useful for children with a learning difficulty.  The charity Scope have a template for a communication passport on their website. Look under ‘Free hospital communication resource’ at www.scope.org.uk/support/tips/health/hospital-stays. Mencap also have a hospital passport for children with a learning disability on their website: www.mencap.org.uk/advice-and-support/health/our-health-guides. Even the most well equipped hospitals cannot provide the round-the-clock care that many severely disabled children need, so children might be completely dependent on others to stay comfortable and happy in hospital. As their mum or dad, you may need to be by their side for much of the day to pick up the extra care that nursing and clinical staff can’t offer. This can include practical things, but also just talking to them, and keeping them reassured and entertained. You may need to ask hospital staff to have patience with you. Having a child in hospital can be draining for parents [4] and you may not be at your best when trying to communicate important things to the staff. When you feel that hospital staff aren’t very understanding about your experiences, it can leave you feeling unsupported, and worried about the decisions that are being made while you’re not there [5]. At times like these, you and your partner might need to make a special effort to support each other. It can be helpful to spend five or ten minutes at the end of the day, talking about what you’ve found difficult and what has gone well. This can help give you a better understanding of each other’s experiences, while getting emotional support from the person who is going through this with you. It can also give you a chance to gather your thoughts and reflect on the day. Support while your child is in hospital Having a child in hospital can sometimes open the door to services and support you may not have accessed before. Make sure you enquire about specialist support. Some charities work in hospitals providing condition-specific nurses, such as Roald Dahl nurses who can visit and support you, and provide follow up care when you’ve left the hospital setting. There are also charities who take applications for financial support, like grants to families with a child in hospital. See www.contact.org.uk/general-grants for a list of grant-giving charities, or contact the helpline for a copy on 0808 808 3555 or helpline@contact.org.uk. The hospital’s Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) can offer parents confidential advice, support and information. They can help you with health-related questions and help resolve concerns or problems when you're using the NHS. You can usually find their office in or near the main entrance of the hospital. Contact has parent advisers based at six children's hospitals across the UK, providing families with emotional and practical support. Parents can drop by the information stands or ask someone to come to the ward. Contact currently work at: Birmingham Children's Hospital. Royal Manchester Children's Hospital. Alder Hey Children's Hospital. Great North Children's Hospital. The Evelina Children's Hospital. Great Ormond Street Hospital. The Contact website has details of available days and times. Leaning on friends and family If you are stressed, it can have an impact your child’s health and behaviour [1], so it’s important to make sure that you and your partner are well supported. One of the best ways to cope with stress is to lean on your friends and family [1] [6]. Sometimes talking to someone outside of the situation can help you let off steam in a way that talking to your partner can’t. You may also be able to ask for practical help, like lifts to or from the hospital, picking up other children from school, or helping you out with the housework for a while. It can be hard to ask for help, but try to be kind to yourself and remember that lots of people enjoy feeling needed and will be happy to support you when they know what you’re going through. Staying with your child If your child is having a long stay in hospital, you can help them by keeping things as normal as possible, like making sure they have access to schoolwork and home comforts [1]. If your other life commitments allow it, you may be able to stay in or near the hospital with your child. Most hospitals allow or even encourage this and some have funded schemes to offer low-cost accommodation nearby [7]. There are also centres like Ronald McDonald House which have been set up specifically to allow your family to stay together while your child is in hospital.  Staying close to your child can take some of the worry out of the situation [7] and help you feel more confident about the care your child is receiving [2]. It may also put you in touch with other parents who are in similar situations [7]. Looking after your relationship However you decide to manage things, you and your partner will probably have to make some compromises. Set aside some time to work things through as a couple – make a list of what needs doing and work out where it’s possible to free up time and resources to make things work. You may be able to divide things up equally, or one of you may have to do the majority of the heavy lifting while the other keeps working. Agree a strategy that works for both of you and make a plan to review it and check if it’s working. Talking things through can help you see how each other is involved, and give you both a greater sense of fairness. Coming home Before your child comes home, make sure you contact the hospital social work department to arrange your child’s care needs when they are discharged. The hospital should liaise with your local authority to make sure you and your child have everything in place. If your child’s care needs have changed, be prepared to start a new routine rather than trying to recapture the old one.  No one can pretend that having a child in hospital is anything but a stressful experience, and it’s normal for feelings of stress and worry to continue even after your child is discharged [8], so give yourselves a chance to adjust afterwards.  References [1] Commodari, E. (2010). Children staying in hospital: a research on psychological stress of caregivers. Italian Journal of Pediatrics, 36, 40. http://www.ijponline.net/content/36/1/40  [2] Gumm R, Thomas E, Lloyd C, et al. (2017) Improving communication between staff and disabled children in hospital wards: testing the feasibility of a training intervention developed through intervention mapping. BMJ Paediatrics Open 2017;1:e000103. doi:10.1136/bmjpo-2017-000103 [3] Care Quality Commission (2017) NHS Patient Survey Programme.Children and young people’s inpatient and day case survey 2016: Statistical release. http://www.cqc.org.uk/sites/default/files/20171128_cyp16_statisticalrelease.pdf [4] Care Quality Commission (2012) Health care for disabled children and young people. A review of how the health care needs of disabled children and young people are met by the commissioners and providers of health care in England. https://www.cqc.org.uk/sites/default/files/documents/health_care_for_disabled_children.pdf [5] Hagvall, M., Ehnfors, M. and Anderzn-Carlsson, A. (2016) Experiences of parenting a child with medical complexity in need of acute hospital care. Journal of Child Health Care, 20(1), pp.68-76. DOI: 10.1177/1367493514551308 [6] Kersh, J., Hedvat, T.T., Hauser-Cram, P. and Warfield, M. E. (2006), The contribution of marital quality to the well-being of parents of children with developmental disabilities. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 50: 883–893. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2788.2006.00906.x [7] Franck, L.S., Ferguson, D., Fryda, S., & Rudin, N. (2015). The child and family hospital experience: Is it influenced by family accommodation? Medical Care Research and Review, 72(4), 419-437. [8] Wray, J., Lee, K., Dearmun, N. and Franck, L. (2011) Parental anxiety and stress during children’s hospitalisation: The StayClose study. Journal of Child Health Care, 15(3), pp.163-174. DOI: 10.1177/1367493511408632
Article | parenting, disability
0 8 min read
Agreeing on medical treatment
What is happening? For many separated parents, as their relationship with their partner comes to an end, their parental partnership continues forward. Even if there’s no love (or at least, no romantic love) left between one another as parents, the shared love for your child remains and grows. But of course, such parental partnerships are rarely easy or straightforward, and for many parents of disabled children, extra stresses and complexities are likely to pop up. These can cause friction and disagreements.These disagreements will vary parent to parent, often depending on the condition of the child. But, according to research, the two main points of disagreement for separated parents of disabled children are [1]: The medical treatment their child’s needs The educational approach for their learning needs “If parents disagree on treatment or educational approaches for their special needs child, separation and/or divorce usually magnify these differences.”[1]                                                                                  In other words, if you struggled to agree on these subjects when you were a couple, there's a good chance it will be harder to agree when you're separated.  How can I help? If your child’s medical treatment is being discussed with a doctor, a specialist, or healthcare member, make sure that you encourage one another to attend appointments together wherever possible. It can be helpful to carry the mind-set that your partnership needs work and effort in the same way that your relationship once did. So, if it feels uncomfortable to attend medical and healthcare meetings together, it may be worth pushing through the awkwardness and the tension for the sake of improving the partnership. Consider using an online parenting plan with your ex-partner, and choose one that allows you to customise it for specific issues. Parenting plans like “Splitting Up? Put Kids First” will allow you to choose your own category, e.g. “Medical treatment for our child”, where you can write down your suggestions and proposals. Your partner would then respond and either agree or disagree with what you’ve put forward. Eventually, you can reach joint decisions and make agreements while keeping emotions and friction to a minimum. Whether you’re talking face-to-face, via a parenting plan or through a series of texts, try to place a real emphasis on respecting one another and using clear communication. It’s going to be difficult to separate your emotions, but your child and your parental partnership with your ex will benefit from your efforts.     If you’re going through a separation or a divorce, you can help to minimise the negative effects that separation can cause on your child’s development and well-being by focussing on the partnership with your ex-partner and the shared love of your child. And, by being active and finding ways to work together as a partnership, your ex-partner may be more responsive and agreeable, knowing how much you want to make the parent partnership work. References: [1] Pickar, Daniel B., and Robert L. Kaufman. “Parenting Plans for Special Needs Children: Applying a Risk-Assessment Model.” Family Court Review 53, no. 1 (January 1, 2015): 113–33.
Article | disability, parenting
0 4 min read