September – is it a new start for you too?
September – is it a new start for you too? The children are back at school now and well, since you’ve bought the new uniform, school bag and compulsory matching stationary, you feel ever so slightly underwhelmed and a bit lost. I’ve talked about September being the new January before. In terms of fresh starts, our children’s lives revolve around September, but what about you? Are you feeling like a new start is necessary?
Think about you
Thinking about yourself doesn’t always come easy when there’s so much other stuff to do. Managing a career, children and the family home means that you often find that it’s not that you’re at the bottom of the list of priorities – you don’t even feature on the list. So make a commitment to thinking about you and what you want and need. It doesn’t mean that you have to change anything immediately, it’s about you tuning into you as a person and not just a parent or partner.
Ask for what you need
Asking for what you need is not selfish, it’s self-worth. Whatever the nature of the relationships with people in your life – lovers, friends, family or work colleagues, you can and must ask for what you need. It is your responsibility to ask, not other’s responsibility to guess. If you are frustrated that your husband / partner or co-parent doesn’t do what you want and need, ask yourself “have I asked for what I want or need, and has that request been clear?” If you have doubts, ask again. Ask again in circumstance where you are likely to be heard
- Ask when you have their full attention (no TV on and they’re not doing something else).
- Maintain eye contact.
- Tell them what you want / need clearly in a straightforward way
- Ask them to tell you whether they can help – if they need time, ask them when they will let you know.
- Be open to hearing their response, even if it’s no!
When you don’t get what you need
So you’ve taken responsibility and asked for what you want or need and it hasn’t happened. What then? Well, the first thing I’d suggest is that you consider how important this is to you. Is it a big deal or is it only a niggle? Is the ‘ask’ itself only a small thing but the refusal to assist you is part of a bigger picture of the other person’s inability or unwillingness to meet your needs? What does the answer to that mean to you?
It’s important here that you are honest with yourself. If you, like me, are a ‘people pleaser’ then it’s likely that you’ll just stuff down those feelings of loneliness, abandonment or shame that can arise when those who are supposed to care about you are unwilling or unable to demonstrate it (for whatever reason). So you put on a smile and say “it’s fine” when it clearly isn’t. And the truth is, the more you accept that behaviour, the more you’ll experience it. Again we are back to the issue of responsibility and also boundaries.
Boundaries help us stay safe. Boundaries let other people know what’s ok for us and what isn’t. When we don’t have firm boundaries, we let people walk all over us. We let people treat us in ways we don’t like and it hurts us. Having firm boundaries gives other people clear direction – this is useful for your children too. Your children will learn from you what boundaries are and how to enforce them so that they get their needs met. It’s ok to want what you want. If you’ve reached the stage where you just aren’t getting your needs met, consider relationship counselling.
Relationship counselling is useful whatever stage your relationship difficulties are at. Whether things are just feeling uncomfortable, or the problem feels more serious and you think that there is no way back, using the structure and support of the counselling environment can help. You get to say what you want to say, and explore your feelings with the support of a trained therapist. It Can be a useful place to share that for you, your relationship is over.
Creating a separation plan
Once the decision to separate has been made, begin by creating a separation plan. If you can and it’s safe, do this between you, if not, do it alone. There are various things you need to consider;
- The family home – who is going to leave? Can you afford to live separately?
- Where will the children have their main home?
- Who will pay the household expenses such as rent or mortgage?
- What will happen to the family finances in the short to medium term?
- When will you tell the children?
- What will you tell the children?
It’s important that you are clear in your own mind what the answers to these questions are because your children will (depending on their ages) want to know.
Creating a parenting plan
Creating a Parenting Plan gives both you and your children certainty. Certainty for children helps them feel secure and it will help you to feel secure too! Knowing when they will see their other parent is important, as is where that will be, and what will happen. There’s more information about Parenting Plans by following the link.
Moving forward can often feel like a huge challenge in the face of so much uncertainty. The best strategy to use is to plan your work and work your plan, and by that I mean this – when you have a plan about the steps you need to take, you can just focus on the very next step, not the whole staircase. Focusing on all the things that need to happen can cause overwhelm and then inertia. Use mediation if you get stuck and need some support and direction. Mediation can help you discuss issue relating to your children, money and property and you can be guided to making the best decisions for you and your family.