More couples discuss what they would do if they won the lottery than how they would co-parent their children in the event of separation.
Fegans, a charity that provides professional children’s counselling and parenting support services, is backing a campaign by the Positive Parenting Alliance, which aims to promote conversation and a change in the UK culture around divorce and separation.
Over 100,000 marriages in the UK end in divorce each year and around 280,000 children are impacted by separation, yet research revealed today has found that while almost 9 in 10 couples (87%) have talked about how they would spend a lottery win, just 5% admit to having discussed potential parenting arrangements in the event of a separation or divorce.
As reported on Channel 4 news last night, the Alliance is asking all UK parents to make The Parents Promise – a commitment made while a couple is still together, about how they will do what’s best for the long-term well-being and mental health of their children should their relationship break down in the future.
As part of the Positive Parenting Alliance, Fegans is calling for a culture shift in the way separation and divorce are handled, from one that is often adversarial and family court based to one of greater adult communication and child-centricity.
Fegans CEO, Ian Soars, explains: ‘Fegans is passionate about The Parents Promise because it places children at the heart of all parents’ thinking. Whether they are together, parting, or separate, their promise has the power to transform children’s lives if, as a nation, we can grip its central truth – great parenting is always about the children, not the parents.’
Every day in its counselling rooms, Fegans witnesses the psychological impact that conflicted family breakdown has on children. Its qualified counsellors work with over 400 children, one-to-one, every week and the single most common reason for referral is family relationship difficulties and the effects of family breakdown. Anonymised case studies published by the charity show that children dealing with conflicted family breakdown struggle with a range of issues, including self-blame and low self-esteem, which can lead to behaviours such as self-harm.
This experience is echoed by clinical psychologist Dr Angharad Rudkin, who says: ‘Research has shown that negative consequences for children after poorly-handled divorce include decreased academic achievement, poor psychological adjustment, social and emotional adjustment, and negative self-concept. In fact, it’s a major reason for children accessing counselling services.
‘Their physical health is compromised, too, especially in situations of high conflict. For this impact to be reduced, communication is key. In one study, a quarter of children whose parents had separated said that no one had talked to them about the separation, leaving them feeling confused and distressed.’
James Hayhurst, founder of the Positive Parenting Alliance, comments: ‘The Parents Promise aims to change the conversation about parental separation, both within families and in wider society. It’s based on a simple and important concept that, safeguarding concerns notwithstanding, every child has a right to a positive relationship with both parents and that no child should be asked or forced to choose between their parents.
‘It’s not surprising that most couples have not had a conversation about what would happen should they split up. But, for many, it will happen. The ask is simple: open a dialogue with your partner when you are still in love – not at the point of a relationship breakdown – and make a commitment together to put your child first, whatever happens. In doing so, we hope to drive positive behavioural change whereby thousands of couples and their children will be protected from the devastating, and often avoidable, impacts of an adversarial split.’
Beyond the emotional costs, the annual cost to the taxpayer of family breakdown is estimated to stand at £51 billion (2018 figures), up from £37 billion 10 years ago. The Positive Parenting Alliance insists families would benefit greatly from the widespread availability of much earlier interventions and support, including mediation and arbitration where necessary, instead of prolonged, unaffordable, and adversarial family court proceedings that put vulnerable families at even greater risk.
For more information and to support the initiative and make The Parents Promise today.