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Information sessions for parents who are splitting up are an established positive intervention to help divorcing and separating families in many countries around the world (Sigal et al, 2011). They have been shown to reduce children’s exposure to conflict, improve the quality of parent-child relationships and improve communication and problem-solving skills (Burke et al, 2009)
Since 2015 the Scottish Government has provided funding for these sessions to be offered free to parents across the country by Relationships Scotland. Parenting Apart is a one off, three-hour session usually for groups of mums and dads, although it may be available on a one to one basis. Ex-partners attend separate sessions. Parents develop an understanding about what they and their children are going through and find out what their children need from them when they are living apart and how to develop a safe and effective co-parenting relationship.
Ian and Lisa’s story
Lisa and Ian (not their real names) recently participated in a Parenting Apart session.
Their relationship had always been very up and down and they split up a year after their youngest son was born. They tried to talk about arrangements for Ian to see the children but every time they spoke ended up in an awful argument. Ian thought he would have to go through the courts to sort things out. As a way forward, Lisa’s solicitor suggested contacting Relationships Scotland, who told them about Parenting Apart sessions.
Initially Ian wasn’t very keen to go along to the sessions but thought it might help the kids and decided to give it a go. It was a relief for him to hear that other people find it hard after splitting up. He left the group determined to try harder, for the kids.
Lisa wasn’t sure what to expect but thought it was good to hear about different experiences from the other mums and dads in the group. She realised that Ian was probably struggling with not seeing the kids nearly as much as he had done and tried some of the suggestions about how to talk to your children’s other parent better - and they did help.
The communication tips helped them talk about the children more easily and make arrangements for the future. Ian and Lisa ended up going on to mediation a positive result for them but especially for their children.
Over 1,300 parents have participated in Parenting Apart since the service was launched in 2015 82% of parents say they now understand significantly more about what their children may be experiencing through the process of separation and divorce. Of those parents seeking a court order prior to the session, 50% were no longer seeking a court order three months later. Parents are more likely to access mediation after the session, alongside seeking legal advice (Relationships Scotland, 2018). After attending Parenting Apart, parents report being better able to negotiate child contact arrangements.
Parenting Apart is provided by Relationships Scotland alongside family mediation, child contact centres and, in many areas, counselling for adults, children and young people.
Contact Rosanne Cubitt, national development manager on email@example.com, 0345 119 2020 for more information.
Burke, S. et al. (2009). Parenting after Separation - A Literature Review prepared for The Australian Psychological Society. The Australian Psychological Society Ltd.
Relationships Scotland (2018). Relationships Scotland Parenting Apart Project – Outcomes Report 2017-18. Retrieved from https://www.relationships-scotland.org.uk/about-us
Sigal, A. et al. (2011). Do parent education programs promote healthy post divorce parenting? Critical distinctions and a review of the evidence. Family Court Review, 49, 120-139
Other articles published in our September 2018 newsletter
Other articles about family relationship problems:
Other articles about separation: