Tavistock Relationships has joined campaign group the Positive Parenting Alliance – a newly-formed alliance of parents, NGOs, support groups and legal sector stakeholders – with the long-term aim of promoting conversation and a change in the UK culture around divorce and separation. From one that is often adversarial and family court-based, to one of greater adult communication and child-centricity.
Research published by the alliance found that almost 9 in 10 couples (87%) have talked about how they would spend a lottery win, but just 5% admit to having discussed potential parenting arrangements in the event of a separation or divorce. This is set against a backdrop of around 280,000 children being impacted by parental separation each year, both from cohabiting relationships that break down and marriages that end in divorce.
As their first initiative the Alliance asked all UK parents to make The Parents Promise – a commitment made today, whilst a couple is still together, about how they will do what’s best for the long-term wellbeing and mental health of their children, should their relationship break down in the future.
Founder and parent James Hayhurst 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.”
According to recent data, 280,000 children experience their parents separating every year, with 1 in 3 of those separations going to court to resolve child arrangements . It is widely acknowledged that poorly managed separation can have a negative emotional and developmental impact on children, yet many parents avoid having difficult conversations that could help protect the mental health of their children over the longer-term, should they separate.
Clinical Psychologist, Dr Angharad Rudkin adds: “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."
Beyond the emotional costs, the annual cost to the taxpayer of family breakdown is estimated to stand at £51bn (2018 figures), up from £37bn ten 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.
Bob Greig & Rebecca Giraud, OnlyMums&Dads stated “The coming together of all organisations in the Alliance around the idea of the Parents Promise is a demonstration of the real need for cultural change in the arena of family separation. The wellbeing of children is the highest common factor for all the work done by the individuals and groups within the Alliance, and there is a real determination to see these changes through.”
Joanne Edwards, Family Lawyer and Mediator at Forsters LLP comments: “It is a common misconception that there is no such thing as a good divorce or separation. In fact, for most couples, court does not need to be the default. Often, the problem is that parents are having discussions right at the point of separation, when emotions are raw and the needs of the children can become lost in parental conflict.
“This is why a simple tool like the Parents Promise is so powerful. Having a conversation before the point of break up can act as a helpful reminder later down the line that these two people were, and remain, loving parents first and foremost. Whilst a relationship can be ended, a commitment to be a parent is lifelong.”
Dr David Curl, CEO, Two Wishes Foundation comments: “Family separation or divorce is one of the greatest, least-recognised, health risks to our children. We need to recognise, especially in the aftermath of COVID, that this is another public health crisis. We need to start treating all separating families with much greater compassion and make sure they have access to the support they need instead of being allowed to drift towards a family court system that’s slow, unaffordable and adversarial and is not what’s best for children.”
For more information, to support the initiative and make the Parents Promise today, visit: https://theparentspromise.org.uk/.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
Online research conducted by Parent Ping in February 2021. Sample of 2,739 parents.
About the Positive Parenting Alliance
The "Parents Promise" was created through an initiative by James Hayhurst in partnership with OnlyMums&Dads, an organisation supporting separated parents and supported by MD Communications. His aim was to bring together a Parenting Alliance of groups, all of whom wanted there to be a conversation around family separation, and how we can better protect the mental health of the next generation. These organisations include: Place2Be, Fegans, Relate, Black Mums Upfront, Two Wishes Foundation and many more.