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    Blended families and stepparents: A beginners guide

    On average, marriages in England and Wales last little over 12 years at the time of divorce. But as people find love again after divorce or separation, blended families are created and family dynamics evolve.
    It’s now estimated that 1 in 3 families in the UK are a blended family, also known as stepfamily.
    In fact, in contrast to traditional stepfamily stereotypes, the narrative of blended families has transformed – even King Charles III is a member of a blended family.
    For many couples, divorce can mark the beginning of a happier new era for them and their children.
    Knowing how to make a blended family work can take time and effort but fuelled by love, the choices made by separated parents can transform a family structure.
    What is a blended family?
    Blended families are created when a couple begin a new life together with their children from one, or both, of their previous relationships.
    What’s behind the increase in blended families?
    Divorce rates are on the rise meaning more people starting new relationships are divorced, with children.
    For example, the latest ONS marriage statistics released in 2022 show that over 32% of marriages include at least one partner who is remarrying. Of course, these figures can’t track the number of couples where one or both partners have previously been in an unmarried relationship.
    Still, it’s understood there are at least 1.1 million children in England and Wales who live in a blended stepfamily.
    Becoming a blended family
    While a positive experience for many, often the most significant concerns when forming a blended family are the integration of new family members and changes to living arrangements.
    Or, perhaps it’s more the reactions of each family member to these inevitable changes, and the emotions they bring, that pose the greatest challenges.
    While parents can appreciate the benefits of becoming a blended family and visualise what their stepfamily homelife could look like in the future, the children may struggle to share that vision. For them it can feel like a huge amount of change, affecting fundamental aspects of their lives, over which they have no control.
    As with any changes, some will take them in their stride, and others will need a greater degree of support and encouragement.
    Introducing a new partner
    Gradually making children aware of a new partner and giving plenty of notice when and how things will change is vital.
    This begins with establishing the right time and approach for introducing a new partner to children, and meeting future stepchildren if their partner also has children.
    Whatever the child’s age, it’s a good idea to prepare them ahead of introductions and offer them a sense of control over the situation. Having some level of control, even if only perceived control, allows us to deal with potentially upsetting or uncomfortable events more effectively.
    Challenges for children of blended families
    There’s a lot for children of blended families to take in. Maybe they’ve come to terms with their parent’s separation, and now there’s more change on the horizon.
    They must navigate the complexities of having stepparents, possibly step-siblings, and even step-grandparents, potentially forging multiple new relationships.
    Sharing loved ones, a home, and belongings with new members of the family can understandably raise worries and negative feelings and behaviour.
    Furthermore, the shift in family roles and responsibilities can become a source of tension, with two sets of parents each with different parenting styles, rules, and routines.
    Harmonising these differences and treating everyone fairly isn’t easy.
    How can I help my blended family succeed?

    Groundwork: It’s beneficial to do plenty of groundwork ahead of any changes to your family to help children process and adapt. Take your time and explain things clearly and openly.
    Communication: Telling children about changes in their living arrangements is a crucial step. Be upfront about what will change and when, and encourage children to ask questions and share any concerns.
    Tact: Handling the integration of new family members and routines delicately and with patience will help avoid unnecessary stress.
    Togetherness: Fostering a sense of unity within blended families can help, through identifying common ground, enjoying shared activities, and establishing new traditions when the time is right.
    Age appropriate: While younger children may adapt more readily, older children and teenagers may find the changes more difficult. Recognising these differences will help you provide the right support for each child’s needs.
    Belonging: Reassuring the child of their central place in the blended family will strengthen relationships and bolster their sense of belonging.
    Regularly connect: Ensure you also give your child one-on-one time where they have your undivided attention to reinforce how much you love and value them. Where it’s safe and appropriate, maintaining a sound connection with the non-residential parent is also important for a child’s well-being.
    Be consistent: Within reason, upholding pre-existing rules and traditions while gradually incorporating new ones helps create a stable environment. This steadiness offers children a sense of security during change.

    Legal considerations for blended families
    When couples create a blended family after separation or divorce it’s worth considering how they can protect their interests for whatever lies ahead.
    Couples who live together but are unmarried may be interested in finding out more about how Cohabitation Agreements can set out agreements regarding finances and children.
    Similarly, couples who are planning to remarry, might benefit from knowing how a prenuptial agreement can offer some financial protection for theirs and their children’s future in the event of divorce.
    With the right approach blended families offer the opportunity for a new beginning and a bigger and more diverse family network. Although evolving family structures demand flexibility, understanding, and effective communication, the rewards could last a lifetime.
    Useful links
    How to successfully co-parent
    Adopting a stepchild
    Stowe talks – How to co-parent calmly and navigate the challenges of blended families with Tom Nash More

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    October Stowe Support roundup

    Stowe Support is a dedicated home for Stowe’s free resources designed to help inform and support anyone with family law concerns.
    With new blogs, guides, podcasts, videos and events shared each month, here’s a handy Stowe Support roundup from the past month in case you missed anything.
    Here’s your monthly roundup of Stowe Support resources in case you missed anything.
    Latest blogs from Stowe
    What is financial wellbeing?
    World Mental Health Day: wellbeing during divorce
    Labour announce commitment to cohabitation reform
    Adopting a stepchild
    World Menopause Day
    Islamic divorce in the UK
    What happens if I’m separated but not divorced?
    What to do if you think your marriage is over
    Book your free webinar place
    Cardiff Break Up Club – Surviving Christmas after separation
    Stowe Talks – How to build a happy blended family with Nichole Farrow
    Watch recent webinars
    Stowe Talks – Creating financial wellbeing following divorce or separation
    Listen to Stowe talks podcasts on Spotify
    Our next series of Stowe talks podcast will be launched soon.
    In the mean time, you can click to catch up on previous episodes and follow us!
    Stowe Support
    To explore our full range of resources dedicated to helping people with family law matters, visit Stowe Support.
    Here you’ll find a wealth of helpful guides, videos and blogs on divorce and separation, finances, children, domestic abuse, cohabitation, alternative parenting, mediation, as well as support with relationships and wellness. More

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    How to successfully co-parent

    A key concern for divorcing parents is how they will continue to parent their children after separation and whether co-parenting will work for them. 
    There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to co-parenting after divorce and how you move forward will be influenced by your relationship with your ex. For example, whether you are on good terms still, and whether you are both equally willing to cooperate.
    For couples who have divorced amicably and want to continue to work together to share responsibility, co-parenting is a popular post-separation parenting method.
    What is co-parenting?
    Co-parenting centres on collaboration and openness. It works best for divorced or separated parents who both want to continue to raise their children together, despite no longer being a couple.
    Co-parenting plans are unique to each family. This means co-parents can work together to make decisions that best suit their family’s needs. This amicable approach provides a helpful framework that prioritises the best interests of the children.
    How is co-parenting different to parallel parenting?
    In contrast, parallel parenting intentionally minimises communication and collaboration between separated parents. This technique is particularly helpful in divorces that involve domestic abuse, high-conflict, narcissistic partners, or where co-parenting hasn’t been successful.
    Benefits of co-parenting
    Some benefits of co-parenting include:

    Co-parenting can help children continue to feel supported, loved, and connected to both parents
    By maintaining open and respectful communication with your co-parent you can prioritise your children and their needs
    Establishing clear guidelines for co-parenting responsibilities, such as schedules, holidays, and financial contributions, you can help prevent misunderstandings
    Agreeing routines and rules between both households helps provide stability and consistency for the children.

    Tips from a family coach for successful co-parenting
    Co-parenting is an ongoing process that requires patience, understanding, and mutual co-operation. While it may be challenging at times, there are ways that you and your ex can create a successful co-parenting approach.
    Here, Nichole Farrow, divorce and family coach, shares her top tips for successful co-parenting.
    Finding a way to successfully co-parent is vital for your kids’ development and your own mental wellbeing.
    As a member of a blended family, I have witnessed firsthand the impact of painful divorces and feuding parents, which throw a long shadow over family events and future generations.
    As separated parents, it is your responsibility to find a way to co-parent for the sake of your children, and for your own good. After all, your ex isn’t going away.
    With this in mind, here are my top 7 tips on how to co-parent successfully:
    Break your news together
    Start as you mean to go on and break the news of your split together. This shows them right from the start that you are both still there for them. Don’t underestimate how much of an impact this will have on your children. This is almost certainly the most difficult thing they will ever have had to cope with.
    Let it go
    Whatever the reasons for your divorce are, and whoever you feel is to blame, let it go. The person your resentment truly harms is you. You are wasting vital energy that may be better spent elsewhere.
    Your child is not your emotional crutch
    Do not tell your children about the specifics of your divorce, the reasons for it, or how you feel about it. Instead, make sure you have a support network you can talk to, such as friends, family, or a coach, rather than your children. They are not there to serve as a sounding board for your mental health.
    Be mindful of your language
    Never bad mouth your ex to or in front of your children. This puts your children in an uncomfortable position and may unfairly make your children feel guilty or like they have to choose sides. By criticising your partner you’ll more likely cause your children to think less of you, not your partner, and you never know when your words will come back to bite you.
    Do not make them choose
    Your ex is not your rival. Making your children choose between you both will end badly for everyone and cause your children unnecessary upset. Remember, your children love you both regardless of whether you’re married or not.
    Never use your children to get back at your ex
    The damage this will do is unimaginable. Let them enjoy their childhood rather than weaponising their relationship with their other parent. After all, we are all the products of our environment. Being stuck between two warring parents might impact your childrens’ mental health now, or later in life.
    Your child is not your messenger
    Communicating with your ex directly on all matters is crucial to your success as co-parents. Using your children as a go between undermines you both and your united parenting, and again puts them in an uncomfortable place. Whether you’re sharing useful information about the week ahead, or something more important, you must be the one to let your ex know through your agreed communication methods.
    Nichole Farrow is a leading UK-based divorce coach specialising in family coaching for blended families who want to build a harmonious home life where they can all flourish. Get in touch with Nichole.
    Related links
    What the family court expects from parents

    Effects of divorce on children

    7 tips for co-parenting through the summer

    How to support children through divorce

    The rise in birdnesting after divorce More

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    7 tips for co-parenting through the summer

    Are you and your ex struggling to agree a schedule for the summer holidays?
    The long school summer break is drawing closer and if you haven’t already, it’s likely you’ll soon begin forming a plan to co-parent through the summer.
    The school holidays can be stressful for any family as parents juggle childcare, work schedules, and holiday plans. However, when you are trying to agree plans with your co-parent, following divorce or separation, things can quickly become complex and emotions can run high.
    Here break-up and divorce coach Claire Macklin shares seven tips for co-parenting success during the holidays.
    1. Plan ahead with your co-parent
    Don’t avoid or delay raising the subject, especially if you know it might be tricky to arrange. Bite the bullet and put forward your proposal. If communication is difficult, write an email with a clear proposal of plans and dates – and keep it calm, to the point and polite.
    2. Know what you want your relationship to look like in 1 year/5 years
    Consider what you’d like your relationship with your ex-partner to look like in the future. Are you on friendly terms with your ex, or would you be more comfortable with a distanced, but civil, relationship?
    Your vision can be a powerful reference point now as you navigate plans for the holidays. It can help to guide your words and actions and help you move towards the having relationship you want with your co-parent. Keep it in mind as you negotiate your summer plans to help you focus on the long-term goals. If your partner would be receptive to your vision, consider sharing it with them so that you’re aligned.
    If this is the first time you’ve had to negotiate holiday times, remember there will be other holidays in the years ahead. What you do now will set the tone for the years to come. How do you want to feel when you look back in 5 years’ time and you recall what you did and said?
    3. Take a helicopter view
    If you’re caught in a fight over the holidays, or there is an issue that is causing a problem, try this exercise and see what comes up for you.  Read it through from start to finish before you start, and perhaps ask a friend or your coach to go through it with you, for maximum benefit.
    First bring the issue to mind and summarise it in just a couple of sentences.

    What is your perspective? How do you feel? What do you want to achieve? What is important to you?

    Stand up and shake your body. Move into a different chair, or a different spot in the room.

    Imagine you are your ex. Really imagine being them, with their values, experiences, and views. What is your perspective? How do you feel? What do you want to achieve? What is important to you?

    Stand up again and shake your body.  Move again into a different chair or spot in the room.

    Imagine now that you are your child. Really feel into being them. What do they want? How do they feel?

    Stand up again and shake your body.

    Now imagine you are watching from a helicopter hovering overhead. You can clearly see and hear everything that you, your ex and your children have just said about how they feel. What do you notice? What one piece of advice would you give?

    Once you have stepped out of the helicopter, take a moment to take in all this information. How has your perspective shifted? What new insights have you gained? How could you use your new insights and perspective as you discuss your plans with your ex?
    4. Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t
    Perhaps you recognise some of these thoughts:

    There’s no way I can have a calm, measured conversation about the holidays with my ex
    I’m worried about spending longer than a few nights away from the children
    I feel angry that I am missing time with them
    I have no idea what I’ll do with myself while they’re away, and I’m dreading it.

    While they’re all understandable reactions, notice that all those thoughts focus on the negative, on the problem. What if you could refocus on looking for solutions?
    How would it feel if you focused on what you CAN do and CAN have, rather than on what you can’t?
    Take back the power and choose to reframe your feelings and consider the value of time. When you change the way you think, and the questions you ask, you can transform how you feel.
    Ask yourself questions like:

    What can I do in that time that I couldn’t do before?
    What have I always wanted to do and never had the time?
    Who do I know who handles co-parenting well? What can I learn from them?
    Who can I arrange to meet up with to have some childfree time?
    What do I love to do and enjoy? When could I do more of that?

    Be open to opportunities. When you shift your focus onto what you can do instead of what you can’t, you can change how you feel about the time you have away from the children, and this will positively impact your discussions with your ex.
    5. Make the time you do have count!
    Whether you’re going away or not, make the time you do share with your children count.
    Sit down with your children, and plan some fun, exciting things to do together over the holidays. One of my clients sat down one Saturday afternoon with his children, and they created a holiday bucket list of places to go, things to do, people they’d like to see.
    Use the questions above with your children and see what ideas they come up with. They don’t need to be extravagant, or expensive. Just having two or three plans you’re all looking forward to during the summer will give you opportunities for quality time with your children.
    6. Create and record your new memories
    When you enjoy the plans you’ve made together with your children, take lots of videos and photos. Create a photo book of all the things you have enjoyed doing together so you can look back on them in the future.
    7. Your children will follow your lead
    Children are incredibly perceptive and will take their cue from you. If you are stressed and negative, it’s likely they will be too. Anger and resentment may make them feel conflicted and anxious.
    The good news is that if you make the most of the situation, focus on the positives, and are open to trying new things, they will be too.
    When you demonstrate to your children that you can work out a schedule with their other parent while also planning some fun moments with them, you are setting a fantastic example that they will remember for years to come.
    Find out more
    Claire Macklin is a UK-based Divorce & Break-up Coach helping people to separate with dignity and strength and redefine life after divorce.
    For more advice about co-parenting through the summer and beyond, or to contact Claire. visit
    Get in touch
    For legal advice to assist with formalising plans between co-parents, child arrangements and other family law matters, contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist family lawyers.
    Useful links
    Child Arrangements Orders – what you need to know
    Travelling abroad with children after divorce FAQs More

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    4 Types Of Toxic Relationship & Their Warning Signs

    Toxic relationships are difficult to define. As no two relationships are the same, there’s no one set of symptoms that clearly define an unhealthy relationship. However, the difference between a healthy relationship and an unhealthy one is often how it makes you feel. Luisa Williams from My Family Psychologist explains more.
    The negative impact of a toxic relationship is significant, affecting both physical and mental health. While healthy relationships have a foundation of trust, independence and respect for each other, unhealthy relationships often lead to feelings of low self-worth, a lack of agency, as well as feeling helpless, fearful, anxious, and often paranoid.
    The term ‘toxic’ doesn’t only refer to romantic relationships. It can apply to any kind of connection you make with another. An unhealthy relationship with a friend, a family member, or a co-worker, can be equally damaging to your well-being, but the most common signs that these relationships are toxic may vary.
    The signs that a relationship is toxic can accumulate over time and often the boundaries are blurred making it difficult for some to identify. However, if you’re drained by your relationship and your partnership isn’t equal, you might be in a toxic relationship. Signs that your relationship may be toxic:
    Toxic relationship: Friend

    They cross your boundaries

    If you have a toxic relationship with a friend, they might constantly do things that upset you or make you feel uncomfortable. Whenever you try to bring them up and set a firm boundary, they might become defensive or make you feel bad for wanting space. If they apologise, the apology rarely sounds sincere.

    They never listen to your problems

    While they might frequently come to you for advice, they don’t devote equal attention to listening to your problems. Whenever you need them, they appear busy, and every conversation tends to be about them.

    They can’t be happy for you

    Instead of celebrating your victories, they see you as competition. Your every achievement reminds them of their own shortcomings and means they feel they’re being left behind.

    They’re judgmental

    Instead of offering you mental support, they frequently judge your choices and make you feel bad for making them.

    You feel drained

    If the friendship feels suffocating and one-sided, chances are it really is. When your friend isn’t there for you when you need them, you end up feeling lonely and unsupported.
    Toxic Relationship: Family

    They compare you to other people

    No matter what you do, your family member is never satisfied. Somehow, you are never good enough while other people can do no wrong. If you have siblings, you’re often being compared even if you’re completely different people.

    They’re always right

    They always think they know better and treat you like you’re incapable of making your own decisions.

    They dismiss your feelings

    Rather than being empathetic, they’ll often simply tell you that other people have it worse or that you should be grateful for what you have. You aren’t allowed to feel unhappy and express any negative emotions.

    They pick on you

    They frequently make personal or critical comments about you. They might give you backhanded compliments, for example, “You look so pretty with makeup on, you should wear it more often” or “Are you sure you want to eat that?”.
    Toxic Relationship: Coworker

    They act superior

    A toxic co-worker might act like their role is more important than yours. Even though you might have the same duties, they feel superior and enjoy telling you what to do. Nothing is ever their fault, and they think they’re always right.

    They gossip

    They might frequently talk behind people’s backs, enjoy spreading doubt and deliberately turn colleagues against each other.

    They can’t work as a part of a team

    They struggle to cooperate because they want to look better than everyone else.

    They complain a lot

    More than venting about the odd bad day at work, toxic co-workers are never satisfied. They will regularly talk about how much they hate their job and feel every piece of constructive feedback is a personal attack. It becomes draining and can quickly causes discontent to spread.
    Toxic Relationship: Romantic Partner

    They have issues they aren’t willing to work on

    The key to a healthy relationship is mutual respect and growth. If your partner isn’t willing to work on themselves, they aren’t able to fully commit to the relationship. For example, your partner might have anger issues and throw things when you’re having an argument. They might not be abusive towards you but make you feel uneasy and unsupported.

    They can’t, or won’t, communicate

    Instead of talking things through openly and honestly, a toxic partner might disguise their feelings by giving you the silent treatment, lying, or becoming passive-aggressive. These manipulative tactics allow toxic partners to express their resentment or disappointment, while denying your opportunity to respond or express your feelings. This can leave you feeling misunderstood and isolated.

    Controlling behaviours

    Toxic partners often assert control over others using a range of behaviours including humiliation, intimidation, threats, and violence. They may isolate you from your friends and family, seek to control your finances, and monitor your time and whereabouts. This pattern of behaviour is often subtle and gradual, becoming apparent all of a sudden.

    The effort isn’t equal

    Your partner is emotionally detached and disinterested, unwilling to invest any effort or time into your relationship. They are always the priority. You’re always the one initiating plans, and the one who always texts or calls first. You feel you have to work hard just to sustain your partner’s attention, but your efforts never pay off.
    If you have recognise any of these behaviours or you have concerns about a relationship, it’s a good idea to seek help by speak to an experienced professional.
    If you need help and support understanding a toxic relationship you can contact My Family Psychologist, who offer specialised counselling services for adults, couples, and children as well as mediation services.
    Family Law Advice
    If you are in an toxic relationship and would like advice on your legal situation, please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist lawyers.
    Other Helpful Contacts
    National Domestic Violence Helpline – 0808 2000 247
    The Men’s Advice Line, for male domestic abuse survivors – 0808 801 0327
    The Mix, free information and support for under 25s in the UK – 0808 808 4994
    National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0800 999 5428
    Samaritans (24/7 service) – 116 123 More

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    How to better connect with other people

    After over a year of profound social changes that have significantly reduced the opportunity for meaningful interaction, it’s not difficult to see why some of us have forgotten the art of connecting with other people. 
    Here, Psychologist Luisa Williams gives us top tips to increase connection and explains the multifaceted benefits of sharing better bonds with other people.
    We are all social creatures that crave interaction. But what we truly need is connection – a genuine bond with someone that goes beyond spending time with them and enjoying their company.
    When we connect with someone, we feel a sense of belonging that improves our well-being. Positive relationships with people don’t only make us less lonely but also increase life longevity and build our resilience. Connection helps us feel supported and more resistant to life adversities.
    But, if it has so many benefits, why do we find connection with others so difficult?
    An inability to connect might stem from low self-esteem. When we think lowly of ourselves, we’re afraid of being vulnerable enough to share personal struggles with others. A fear of vulnerability might be linked to trust issues. If you were hurt in the past, it’s natural you don’t believe in other people’s intentions.
    In some people’s cases, it’s a matter of a different worldview. If you experience mental health difficulties such as depression, anxiety, trauma history or personality disorders, you might feel isolated and struggle to relate to other people and their perspectives.
    But no matter what’s holding you back, you can learn how to better connect with others, and begin to enjoy the benefits of connectivity. Check out the tips below:
    Connect with a smile
    Smiling is one of the tricks that make others see you in a positive light. It conveys positive emotions and boosts your mood. When you smile at someone, they’re more likely to respond with a smile as well, which strengthens the bond and positive associations. Essentially, smile is a social tool. It lets others know you want to engage with them and that you’re someone they can trust.
    Practise social skills
    We all need social interaction, whether we’re lonely or not. However, problems arise when we turn to other people to receive validation or distract ourselves from negative emotions. Sometimes, we end up seeing our relationships as a transaction. In the end, we fail to commit and make an effort. If you want to build a true connection with others, you have to start seeing them as someone you can grow with.
    The first step is to become a great listener. Good listening skills let others know you care about what they have to say and that you’re interested in them as a person. Make sure you’re actively listening – make eye contact, respond with nonverbal cues and wait for a pause to ask questions about what is being said.
    If you struggle with concentration, visualise what the other person is saying. Make a mental note of what they like and dislike. It will help you get to know their boundaries and further strengthen the bond. If you know what’s important to someone, you’re less likely to jeopardize your relationship. Don’t forget to engage in small talk. It will allow you to showcase your personality and encourage building on the relationship.
    Get to know them
    Be present and forget about distractions. When you want to get to know someone, you have to make an effort and focus all your attention on them. Make sure you don’t look at your phone or worry about all the things you have to do when you get home.
    Develop interests. One of the most important steps is sharing mutual interests. Your likes and dislikes might be already obvious to you but if your life revolves around school or work, you might struggle to think of things you’re passionate about. Of course, most people enjoy watching TV or playing games but the key to building a relationship with someone is finding something you can both grow doing. You can start by trying out new hobbies. Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses and consider signing up for a new class.
    Lastly, learn to recognise when they feel uncomfortable or upset. Pay attention to their body language and changes in demeanour. Notice if they’re exceptionally quiet or struggle to keep eye contact.
    Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable
    Vulnerability. It’s defined as ‘uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure’. Most of us take risks frequently: we order food from a new restaurant, we cross the road when the light is red, and arrive late for work. But when it comes to people, we tend to play it safe. We hide our feelings and distance ourselves.
    Vulnerability is the price of connection. Connection is about stepping out of your comfort zone and being open with another person as much as they’re open with us. If someone shares their personal struggles with you, don’t be afraid to respond with the same.
    However, make sure you connect with yourself first. Try to sit with your thoughts and feelings. Write them down and try to link emotions to what’s going on in your life. This will help you spot a pattern and better meet your needs. For example, if your job is stressing you out and you don’t have time to rest because you work overtime, you might think of adjustments to complete your tasks faster.
    Be authentic and let people get to know the real you. If you find it difficult to open up and feel comfortable around someone you don’t know well, remind yourself that everyone has flaws. Write down your strengths and make sure you read them regularly. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. A genuine friendship is based on trust and helping each other get through difficult times.

    If you’d like to hear more from Luisa on a range of other topics, visit My Family Psychologist. More

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    Why am I so angry?

    Luisa Williams, CEO & Founder of My Family Psychologist, joins us to share insights on anger responses and how to recognise when recurring anger may be caused by more persistent underlying problems.
    Why am I so angry?
    Life is full of twists and turns. Its challenges sometimes force us to change direction or adjust to a new reality which includes dealing with difficult emotions. If we don’t get the job we want, we might feel disappointed. If our relationship ends, we might experience pain and sadness.
    Anger is an emotion some of us experience frequently. It can be triggered by being disrespected or treated unfairly. It might be triggered by unexpected situations that interrupt our goals. Or, it can be a response to stress. Imagine you’re late for work and stuck in traffic. This would make anyone at least slightly annoyed at a given moment. When anger is a response to an unpleasant situation, it likely comes and goes quite quickly without causing further issues.
    While anger might seem like a straightforward emotion that’s an interpretation of whatever is going on in your life, it often implies there’s something else hidden underneath the surface. If you find yourself dealing with anger on a daily basis, your anger is likely a part of a bigger problem.
    Unhealthy responses to anger
    While anger is often a natural response, it can easily escalate and turn into an emotional outburst or even aggression. When our anger is triggered by the words or actions of other people, we might struggle to feel understood and take out our frustration on others to avoid being hurt more. Unhealthy anger can take on many forms:
    Passive aggression
    Have you ever given someone a silent treatment because they made you angry instead of trying to talk things through? Have you ever pretended everything was fine when you were upset about something your loved one did? Passive aggression is a strategy that helps us avoid confrontation but only adds to the problem. While we might choose not to fully engage with anger to avoid being vulnerable, suppressed anger doesn’t go away and can turn abusive. When you act in a passive-aggressive way, you place your needs and pride above other people’s feelings. Your refusal to communicate increases frustration on both sides and makes you feel even more hostile.
    Open aggression
    Just like passive aggression, open aggression is a harmful way of expressing anger but it’s directly aimed at other people. It’s a way of confronting someone while disregarding their feelings. Examples include shouting, throwing things, sarcasm or violence. Releasing anger might feel powerful. It might make you feel in control while serving as protection that shields you from further getting hurt. But in reality, it puts a barrier between you and your loved one and hurts both of you.
    Turning anger inwards
    Anger is often intense and might be triggered by the way we feel towards ourselves. When someone lets us down, we might blame ourselves for trusting them and having high expectations or believing we were good enough. If anger is mixed with the feeling of guilt and shame it might be used as a form of punishment. For example, you might self-inflict an injury to deal with overwhelming emotions.
    If you tend to deal with anger using the strategies above, you may struggle with self-control and expressing emotions in a healthy way. Anger aimed at yourself decreases your self-esteem. Anger aimed at other people shows disregard for their feelings and needs. It might make communication difficult. It might escalate and lead to undesired behaviours. It doesn’t only strain relationships with other people but can cause a range of health issues such as headaches, hypertension, insomnia, anxiety and digestion problems. Additionally, when we feel angry our body releases cortisol (the stress hormone) that increases our heart rate and blood pressure, triggering a ‘fight or flight’ response. This causes inflammation and stress.
    Anger and mental disorders
    Anger can be connected to many other emotions like guilt, shame, anxiety, stress, feeling overwhelmed and irritability. It might be also related to underlying mental health issues some of which are described below.
    Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED)
    IED is marked by explosive outbursts that occur suddenly and often not in proportion to the situation. These might include verbal aggression, shouting, getting into fights, threatening, or assaulting others or property damage. The episodes are often marked by increased energy, racing thoughts, tingling, tremors, palpitations, or chest tightness. The cause of IED is unknown but the risk factors can be a history of abuse or having another mental disorder that is characterized by disruptive behaviours.
    Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a condition which symptoms include inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsive behaviour. People with ADHD experience emotional dysregulation which makes it difficult for them to manage emotions and keep their intensity appropriate to the situation. The main risk factors for developing ADHD can be genetics, low level of activity in the brain parts responsible for attention and activity or prenatal exposure to alcohol or nicotine.
    Personality disorders such as BPD
    Borderline Personality Disorder is another disorder associated with emotional dysregulation. Individuals with BPD struggle to manage intense emotions which often seem an inappropriate response to a situation. Explosive anger experienced by someone with BPD is one of the diagnostic criteria and might be accompanied by shouting, aggression and even self-harm. The main cause of the disorder is a history of trauma or exposure to distress as a child.
    Conduct disorder
    Conduct Disorder is a pattern of antisocial behaviours in children that might involve property destruction, theft, deceptiveness, animal cruelty and aggression towards people. Children and teenagers with conduct disorder misbehave frequently and find it difficult to manage emotions. The possible causes include defects or injuries to certain brain areas linked to regulating emotions and behaviours, genetics, and a dysfunctional family environment.
    If you feel like your anger is impossible to manage and takes over your life, we recommend seeking professional help.
    Contact My Family Psychologist for a confidential chat. More

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    5 tips for Father’s Day without the kids

    Father’s Day without the kids can be challenging when you’re separated or going through a divorce, particularly if you aren’t seeing your children on the day.  
    Perhaps you don’t see your children as much as you would like at the best of times, or maybe communication between you and their mother has broken down, and you are in the middle of a court process that will ultimately decide how your children divide their time.  
    Or maybe it just isn’t your scheduled time with the children, and you haven’t been able to negotiate a swap.
    If this is you, then the media hype surrounding Father’s Day might seem overwhelming, and it can be easy to lose yourself in feeling low or angry, concentrating on what you have lost and the “what if” questions that might be swirling around your mind.  
    I am here to reassure you that you do have a choice.  You can make a conscious decision to do something differently, to choose how you react, to reframe your thinking – and your choices will have a significant impact on how you feel.
    Focus on what you CAN do 
    Instead of focusing on what you can’t do or no longer have, shift your focus onto what you CAN do. While it’s true that Father’s Day this year might be different, and not the same as before, you can change your approach and focus.
    Ask yourself how you could make it better for you.  Can you Facetime with them, wherever they are?  Could you arrange a special trip out with them for the next time you see them?  Could you write them each a card?  Brainstorm a list of choices and decide to do one of them.
    On the day itself, shift your focus and do something that YOU enjoy and that you know helps you to feel good.  Arrange to see a friend, go for a long run or cycle – whatever it is that feeds your soul.
    Focus on the time you DO have 
    If your children aren’t with you this Father’s Day, focus on the time you DO have with them, rather than dwelling on this one day that you don’t. Choose a different day to celebrate with them. Do something special with them next time you see them – it may be easier to book on a different date, and you may have more choice.
    If you haven’t already, I suggest you create a list together of things you would all love to do, places you would like to go, people, you would like to see.  Keep it on your fridge and cross them off as and when you do them.  Save these new memories by taking photos and putting them up on a memories board.
    Your children will take their cue from you. If you are angry and resentful, they are likely to feel conflicted and stressed. When you are upbeat and talk about what you can do next time you’re together, they will take your lead.
    Tell the story differently
    Every time you talk about Father’s Day, notice the words you use, and how they make you feel.  The words you use, and the story you tell can have a big effect on your feelings.  Every time you talk about how terrible you feel, how sad or angry you are, you associate into those feelings all over again. 
    Instead, try talking about what you are going to do instead, and notice how that feels different.  Notice also how people start to respond differently to you – instead of feeling sorry for you, they may start to tell you how impressed they are, how proud they are of the way you are dealing with this.  
    Choose to stay off social media
    Whatever you do, don’t indulge in a little of what I can “torture by social media” – don’t go onto your Facebook or Instagram feed to see what all your Dad friends are doing, the fun they’re having.  Take a day, or better still the whole weekend, off your social media accounts.  
    If you keep doing the same thing, you will keep getting the same outcome – so if it isn’t working, do something else!
    It is your choices that will make the difference.  When you perhaps feel that everything else is out of your control, your choices and decisions are 100% within your power to make.  
    When you choose to shift your focus, tell your story differently, and protect yourself from social media, you are making active choices to do something differently – and you will get a different outcome.
    Article by Claire Black from Claire Black Divorce Coaching
    Claire is one of the UK’s first accredited specialist Divorce Coaches, a former lawyer, and Advanced NLP Practitioner. You can get in touch with Claire at or call 07722 007528
    Get in touch 
    If you would like any advice on a family law issue, please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist family lawyers here. 
    If you are struggling to deal with Father’s Day with the kids after a divorce or separation, the following websites have some useful tools and advice. 
    Families need Fathers 
    Hear other father’s experiences
    Separated Dads 
    Men’s Advice Line
    This article was published at an earlier date and has since been updated.  More