Support for Separated Parents

23 APR 2021

Separation can be a difficult time for families, particularly for children, who are often confused about changes in their lives. Lifeline WA’s free Separated Mums and Dads program is a unique service that provides support to parents and their children before, during and after separation. Lifeline WA counsellors Naomi and Joyce describe how the program can help people going through what can be an extremely challenging time.

In our counselling sessions, clients are given the space to speak about what is going on for them in a supportive environment, and many say this helps them start to see things a bit clearer. There is so much going on both practically and emotionally that often the situation can become very blurred. The issues of separation are wide-ranging. Separation can bring unfamiliar processes through court proceedings, supporting the children and working together to create custody arrangements. On top of navigating a new territory, the emotions involved in separation can be enormous.

Family and friends can take sides during a separation, which can increase the angst that the separated couple face. Naomi and Joyce often receive feedback from clients about how useful they find talking to a neutral party about their situation and being provided with some new skills and ways of coping. As part of Lifeline WA counselling sessions, we provide clients with evidence-based psychoeducation relating to their presenting concerns. This can include information on the impact of family separation, ways to improve communication skills, the impact on children in relation to their developmental stage, and how to develop and maintain a child-focused approach throughout the separation process.

Children are invited to meet with a Lifeline WA counsellor, when appropriate, so their views and feelings can be heard. The feedback from children helps parents and carers to develop parenting plans that are in the child’s best interests. We have successfully supported teenagers to effectively communicate and express their feelings and experiences in a positive way with both parents, even after high conflict separations, which has helped the parents to create child-centred shared care custody plans.

Lifeline WA does not provide legal advice, however clients are advised on how to access support including domestic violence support, affordable legal advice, and where to attend Family Dispute Resolution. Support is also provided for moving through the court process, including a focus on taking care of yourself and your children as you navigate this often difficult and long-term process.

Another focus of our counsellors is helping clients to rebuild self-worth and confidence after a relationship breakdown. Often, we find that parents who are in the middle of a separation need to be heard and validated on their experience. During the counselling process, clients can be guided to identify and connect with their strengths and find the best way forward in their situation. This might include: improving communication with their exes; exploring how to best protect themselves from abusive behaviour; how to approach situations in their newly separated life, for example, family gatherings; and how to move forward through creating parenting plans, attending family dispute resolution and court, if required.

The Lifeline WA separated parents counselling program is free and available face-to-face and online for people located throughout Western Australia. To find out more or to make an appointment, please phone reception on (08) 9261 4444.

If you would like confidential, emotional support, please phone one of our trained crisis supporters 24/7 on 13 11 14.

Image Credit: Photo by David Straight on Unsplash