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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

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    Attachment trauma: Why can’t I have real love?

    Louisa Hope, from Therapy Knutsford, joins us to share insight into attachment trauma and how it can manifest in our relationships, as part of our Stowe Guests series.
    As children it is our birth right to feel safe, protected, loved and nurtured, all of which support the development of secure and loving attachments. However, if these needs are not met, we can experience trauma which can have long-lasting effects on our emotional well being and the ability to build healthy relationships.
    What is attachment trauma?
    Attachment trauma can occur in childhood if a caregiver repeatedly gives confusing boundaries, withholds support, is neglectful or abusive. This kind of trauma can be very debilitating, diminishing our self-worth and affecting how we relate to love and connections later in life. Childhood wounding can run deep and even though as adults we may be able to rationalise our childhood experiences, we can hold onto beliefs on a deep core level that we adopted as a young child; “I’m not enough”, “I can’t have real love”, and “I’m not worthy”.
    Attachment styles
    Attachment trauma impacts our attachment style as adults. Instead of creating secure attachments we can become insecure when in love, needing reassurance, close proximity and constant validation. This anxious attachment style may in turn cause anxiety to increase the deeper we fall in love, with the potential to create a state of hypervigilance.
    Alternatively, those who have experienced attachment trauma can develop an avoidant attachment style where they pull away from a partner when the relationship becomes too intimate or loving.
    The early subconscious beliefs we carry within can remind us to keep our distance or cling on tight, and we require our partners to cater for these needs from historical wounding. Oftentimes we develop push-pull relationships where we use protest behaviour to get our needs met, causing the connection to become needy or distant, toxic and painful.
    People pleasing
    Trauma often goes hand in hand with poor boundary setting. We first learn how to create safe boundaries from our parents, but if these boundaries were violated or interchangeable, we may not know how to say no when something does not feel right, and we become ‘People Pleasers’.
    As a result of this, we often learn to over-compensate for a lack of love and validation which can affect our own ability to create safe and loving connection. This overly accommodating behaviour is alluring to the narcissist, and other types of abusers. We often find a deep need to fill the void of love and validation created by trauma, leading us into relationships that will perpetuate old familiar patterns, reaffirming our already brittle view of relationships.
    The benefits of healing
    Healing attachment trauma is a phenomenally powerful way of restoring our ability to give and receive love safely, and experience authentic lasting connections.
    When we heal childhood trauma we can also heal the associated attachment wounding, empowering us to move away from anxious or avoidant styles, and rebalancing towards a more secure form of attachment. This has huge benefits, such as:

    Increasing the joy we can experience in relationships
    Improving our physiology as the expectation of more trauma subsides
    Allowing our nervous systems to return to their parasympathetic state.

    These benefits in turn have huge impact on our health as we are no longer on alert when in love and can relax into the arms of our loved ones and really feel deep, meaningful, secure love.
    Moving forward
    We know so much more about the way the subconscious mind works and how to harness its power to heal and reverse old limiting beliefs.
    With support, those who have experienced attachment trauma can heal. Recognising your attachment style and it’s causes will help you build your relationships, set clear boundaries and improve your life.
    Get in touch
    Contact Louisa Hope at Therapy Knutsford for a free, confidential discovery call on 07510 714447 or visit or email:
    All sessions include follow-up support. More

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    Time to talk: Communicating with your partner

    Communicating with your partner
    Good communication is the foundation of a good relationship. Without it, resentment, fear or distrust can build up, and there’s nothing like this trio to cause relationship problems. 
    So it is no surprise when Relate, the UK’s largest provider of relationship support, reports that many couples seeking counselling from them say that communication breakdown is one of the main reasons.
    To understand how better to communicate with your partner, Luisa Williams, CEO & Founder of My Family Psychologist, joins us to explain the four key communication styles and why understanding them is important in forming and maintaining all relationships.  
    Communication is an important aspect of life that can impact how we form and maintain relationships.  
    Having a good understanding of our communication style can help develop self-awareness and identify our areas of improvement and strengths, resulting in strengthening our relationships, reducing conflicting situations, and expressing our needs.  
    Communication styles are influenced by external factors that are then internalised. These styles are not fixed but transition and adapt to the scenarios we face.  
    There are four main communication styles:





     Assertive communication 
    The assertive communication style is a widely accepted style that is considered an effective communication style.  
    It is focused on the needs of the communicator and those with who they are communicating.  
    Theses communicators value their time, rights, needs and themselves- as well as others.  
    They are driven by their desires and needs as well as respecting others desires and needs.  
    They are straightforward and direct in expressing their opinions, advocate for their rights and someone who states facts (without labels or judgments). They are fair, honest, open to criticism or bargaining whilst ensuring others understand and interpret the situation at hand in a realistic manner.  
    Others will feel that they can trust the assertive communicator at their word, that they know where they stand, that they have been listened to, considered, and respected. 
     In summary, the assertive communication style consists of: 

    Direct communication 

    Appropriate honest 

    Advocates for oneself 

    Utilised “I” statements  

    Listens and does not interrupt  

    Express emotions  

    Passive communication 
    This style of communication focuses on the needs of others rather than the needs of their own.  
    They are driven by the desire and belief to please others and avoid conflict. 
    They typically are indirect about their thoughts or feelings and will submit to other desires.  
    They struggle to take responsibility for decisions, have no opinion, agree to others without question, talk softly, do not express their feelings, and avoid conflict or confrontation.  
    Others may view a passive communicator as frustrating, confused about their needs, and some may advantage of the individual.  
    In summary, a passive communication style consists of: 

    Indirect communication 

    Denies personal needs  

    Apologies for emotions  

    Defers to other opinions  

    Minimises one’s experience  

    Prioritises other emotions  

    Passive-aggressive  style of communication 
    People who communicate in a passive-aggressive style may appear passive on the surface but can act out their needs in an indirect way.  
    They are driven by beliefs such as “I’ll please you, but I will get back at you”. 
    They have difficulties expressing and acknowledging their anger, resulting in feeling trapped, unable to confront conflict or their needs.  
    They often sabotage themselves due to unclear intentions, and their expressions do not match their emotions.  
    Passive-aggressive communicators may be sarcastic, ‘two-faced’, spread rumours, give silent treatments, talk about others behind their backs rather than confronting others and indirectly aggressive.  
    Others may feel they are frequently left feeling confused, angry, hurt, or resentful.  
    In summary, the passive-aggressive communication style consists of: 

    Indirect communication   

    Denies difficult emotions  

    Indirectly expresses anger  

    Backhanded compliments  

    Denies there is a problem  

    Feigns cooperation 

     Aggressive communication 
    They focus on their own needs and disregard the needs of others.  
    They are driven by beliefs such as “I’m right, and you are wrong”,, and “I’ll get what I want no matter what.” 
    They come across as bossy, condescending and threatening.  
    They often are close-minded, interrupt or speak over others, put others down, use threats and are not effective listeners.  
    Others may feel defensive, humiliated, hurt, afraid, disrespected, and can resort to fighting back, being resistant or defiant.   
    In summary, an aggressive communication style consists of: 

    Inappropriately honest  

    Dominate others 

    Does not listen  

    Critics or blames others 

    Low frustration tolerance  

    Only uses “you” statements  

    How understanding your style can help when communicating with your partner
    Understanding the styles of communication is just beginning. Now,  it’s time to take that learning and develop self-awareness by exploring and understanding your style of communication,  your behavioural tendencies and personal needs. 
    Whatever your goals relate to your relationships, family, work, finances, you need to learn to communicate effectively to achieve them.  
    This does not mean talking the loudest, getting the last word in or pretending everything is fine. Powerful communication comes from understanding your needs and learning how to express them clearly — while also valuing the messages you receive from others.
    Starting to practice better communication today will help you build your relationships, set clear boundaries and improve your life. 
    Get in touch 
    If you need some advice on communicating with your partner, please contact My Family Psychologist. 
    We offer specialised counselling services for adults, couples and children, as well as mediation services. Get in touch and see how we can support you when you are going through a difficult time. 
    Visit the My Family Psychologist website here.
    Family law advice 
    For any family law advice please  contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist lawyers here
    References More

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    How does conflict during separation and divorce affect children?

    The effect of conflict during separation and divorce on children 
    Luisa Williams, CEO & Founder from My Family Psychologist joins us on the blog with her advice on how does conflict during separation and divorce affect children? 
    Imagine that you are about to go on the world’s scariest rollercoaster ride. 
    You didn’t want to go on it at first, but you have been told by others that not going on this rollercoaster would be the wrong decision. 
    You have been arguing with your partner for the past six months about it and having a constant push and pull. 
    You have to decide whether this is a rollercoaster you want to experience, whether you can afford to go on this ride and what you want to achieve. 
    Then, if you decide that you have to ride it, so does everybody you care about, even if they don’t want to.  
    Now, imagine that your child or children have witnessed all of your arguments about the rollercoaster and feel that they have no choice but to ride that rollercoaster with you. 
    This level of conflict has impacted that child so much that they are now involved in this situation against their own will. 
    How do you think that this has impacted them?  
    Separation and divorce
    Separation and divorce are by no stretch of the imagination, a conflicting and challenging situation to be in, not to mention the added hardship of having children as part of that equation.  
    So what is a high-conflict separation or divorce?  
    Previous research has shown that high-conflict separation or divorce often refers to verbal or physical altercations between parents as witnessed by the child. 
    It can feel like a tug of war for children who are in the centre and have parents pulling on opposite ropes, which can be extremely overwhelming for a child.  
    What does the research say about how a high-conflict separation and divorce can affect children?  
    Previous findings from research date back to the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s and suggest that children are not necessarily negatively affected by living in a single-parent family but more so by the conflict witnessed. 
    Much of the research has shown that family conflict, especially parental conflict, can harm children in the following ways.  
    Mental health  
    Children who find themselves caught in the middle are more likely to experience depression and anxiety. 
    Jekielek (1998) used data from a longitudinal study which concluded that parental conflict had a consistently significant negative impact on child anxiety and depression four years later, suggesting that parental conflict has enduring effects on child well-being. 
    Furthermore, studies have concluded that children experience less anxiety and depression when their high-conflict, married parents’ divorce.  
    Their future relationships with others  
    Long term exposure to high conflict can have an adverse effect, especially as children may observe parents engaging in this behaviour and replicate in their relationships (Gager, Yabiku & Linver, 2016). 
    These children also tend to have impaired relationships with peers. Furthermore, the poor role modelling demonstrated by their parents leads these kids to have no idea what it means to have real friendships, and their expectations of friends can become quite distorted. 
    Their self-esteem, self-concept and identity  
    A study by Raschke and Raschke (1979) found that family conflict can be detrimental to their self-concept. 
    This has since been supported by other research which has found that high conflict post-divorce may lead to parents being alienated from their children (Dunne & Hendrick, 1994). 
    This can negatively impact children’s self-esteem and self-sufficiency in adulthood (Ben-Ami & Baker, 2012).   
    Their behaviour including risk-taking  
    Evidence suggests that children experiencing their parents’ divorce or separation is associated with lower levels of wellbeing (Amato, 2010) and more behavioural problems (Hetherington & Kelly 2002; Weaver & Schofield, 2015).  
    In particular, it can affect interpersonal skills (Kim, 2011) and externalising behaviours such as conduct problems (Kelly & Emery, 2003; Kim, 2011; Weaver & Schofield, 2015)  
    Their success or performance in school and daily life 
    Children may also underperform academically as a result of their parent’s break-up by getting poor grades, using drugs, becoming defiant, withdrawing from the world, acting out in class and stop doing activities that generally please them. 
    What can parents do to support their children who have witnessed high-conflict situations? 
    Parents may see the conflict as necessary when going through divorce proceedings, but you need to remember to think about the impact that this may be having on the child or children. 
    So the fact of the matter is simple; it is the conflict, and not necessarily the divorce, that puts your children at risk. 
    Supportive parenting strategies
    A few supportive parenting strategies can go a long way to helping kids adjust to the changes brought about by divorce, reduce the psychological effects and maintain healthy and supportive relationships with your children.

    Don’t put children in the middle. Children didn’t ask to be in this situation and don’t need a constant push and pull from parents.  
    Teach pro-social coping strategies and skills to help them adjust to what is happening. Offer reassurance at any opportunity. Children need reassurance that it isn’t their fault about what is happening.  
    Use consistent discipline when needed. Maintaining age-appropriate rules from both parents will offer stability and manage unwanted behaviour.  
    Monitor adolescence. As children enter adolescence, their hormones will kick in, and there may be further excuses for why they choose to act out including substance misuse and self-harm—Check-in with them and offer support where possible.  
    Empower your child to express themselves. Children need to be able to have a safe space to talk to their parents and express how they are feeling. They need warmth and comfort from both parents.  

    Get in touch
    If you are going through a high conflict separation or divorce proceedings and need some support for yourself or your children, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with My Family Psychologist. 
    We offer specialised counselling services for adults, couples and children as well as mediation services. Get in touch and see how we can support you when you are going through a difficult time. 
    Visit the My Family Psychologist website here.
    Family law advice 
    If you would like any family law advice please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist family lawyers here
    Amato, P. R. (2010). Research on divorce: Continuing trends and new developments. Journal of marriage and family, 72(3), 650-666.  
    Anon, (n.d.). How Children Cope with High Conflict Divorce: How Are They Harmed and What Can Parents Do to Help Them – Divorce – Support Resources for Coping and Moving on After Divorce. [online] Available at: [Accessed 13 Aug. 2020]. 
    Ben-Ami, N., & Baker, A. J. (2012). The long-term correlates of childhood exposure to parental alienation on adult self-sufficiency and well-being. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 40(2), 169-183.  
    Dunne, J. E., & Hedrick, M. (1994). The parental alienation syndrome: An analysis of sixteen selected cases. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 21(3-4), 21-38.  
    Gager, C. T., Yabiku, S. T., & Linver, M. R. (2016). Conflict or divorce? Does parental conflict and/or divorce increase the likelihood of adult children’s cohabiting and marital dissolution? Marriage & Family Review, 52(3), 243–261.   
    ‌Government of Canada, Department of Justice, Electronic Communications (2015). Studies of High Conflict and its Effect on Children – High-Conflict Separation and Divorce: Options for Consideration (2004-FCY-1E). [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Sep. 2019]. 
    Hetherington, E. M., & Kelly, J. (2002). For better or for worse: Divorce reconsidered. WW Norton & Company.  
    Kelly, J. B., & Emery, R. E. (2003). Children’s adjustment following divorce: Risk and resilience perspectives. Family relations, 52(4), 352-362.  
    Kim, H. S. (2011). Consequences of parental divorce for child development. American Sociological Review, 76(3), 487-511.  
    Jekielek, S.M. (1998). Parental Conflict, Marital Disruption and Children’s Emotional Well-Being. Social Forces, 76(3), p.905. 
    Psychology Today. (n.d). Understanding the Effects of High-Conflict Divorce on Kids. [online] Available at: [Accessed 13 Aug. 2020]  
    Morin, A. (2017). The Psychological Effects of Divorce on Children. [online] Verywell Family. Available at: [Accessed 13 Aug. 2020] 
    Raschke, H.J. and Raschke, V.J. (1979). Family Conflict and Children’s Self-Concepts: A Comparison of Intact and Single-Parent Families. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 41(2), p.367. 
    Weaver, J. M., & Schofield, T. J. (2015). Mediation and moderation of divorce effects on children’s behaviour  problems. Journal of family psychology, 29(1), 39. More

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    How to tell if you are in a co-dependent relationship

    Luisa Williams, CEO & Founder from My Family Psychologist joins us on the blog with her advice on how to tell if you are in a co-dependent relationship.
    I can’t live, with or without you. U2’s famous song appears to strike a chord with many of the couples that I have worked with in therapy. The saying ‘can’t live with or without you’ is a struggle faced by many couples. 
    You can’t help who you fall in love with, but when does a relationship become more than an intense emotional and physical connection and border into the co-dependency zone? Do you know when that line is crossed?  
    It can be hard to distinguish between a person who is ‘clingy’ and a person who is co-dependent. If you suspect that you, your partner or somebody you know is displaying traits of being co-dependent or that you/they may be in a co-dependent relationship, here are some signs to look out for. 
    (You don’t need all of them to determine whether you or your partner is co-dependent or whether.)  
    Ten tips on how to tell if you are in a co-dependent relationship
    1. You or your partner may exercise the need for control.  
    Control helps co-dependents feel safe and secure; and to be honest, this is not specific to them.

    We all want to feel like we are in control of situations but there is a difference between being in control of the situation and being a dictator of somebody else’s life which is a violation of somebody else’s boundary. 

    Sometimes you may not feel like you have control, and that can make you feel like you are being controlled. Co-dependents also need to control those close to them, because they need other people to behave in a certain way to feel okay. 
    2. There may be addiction issues.  
    This is not true for all co-dependents, but there may be some form of addiction which generally acts as a means to help them relax or to add a sense of order or purpose to their lives. Whether that be substances, alcohol, cigarettes, working or cleaning, this can help them not feel out of control.  
    3. You may love the person, but don’t like them.
    This may feel like a contradiction in terms, but it is possible to feel love for somebody but not like the things they are doing or how they behave towards you. This can lead to a sense of feeling trapped or unable to leave. 
    You need to think about whether the positives outweigh the negative. Work on what isn’t going well and decide how you can work on this. Sometimes it will work out and other times, it won’t. What you risk doing when staying with a person whom you love but don’t want to be with, is resenting that person which is not a feeling that is felt lightly.  
    4. You or your partner may experience low self-esteem.  
    If you or your partner is experiencing heightened feelings of low self-esteem or feel like you’re are comparing yourself to others, then you may find yourself trying to be comforted or comforting your partner. 
    Underneath this veil of low esteem, there may be an underlying issue which is causing this feeling. If everything is going well, you won’t feel bad about yourself and the self-esteem issues should not be there.  
    5. There are poor boundaries in place or a lack of boundaries.  

    Imagine boundaries as being invisible lines which exist between you and your partner. 

    Having boundaries is important to establish the values of relationship, but this also includes your feelings, thoughts and needs. 
    This is where co-dependents can get into trouble as they tend to blur the boundary lines and may expect their boundaries not to be crossed, meanwhile overstepping other people’s boundaries. Sometimes, co-dependants can become defensive as a result of having poor boundaries.  
    6. There is a lot of ‘people-pleasing’ going on. 
    Saying ‘no’ causes anxiety to co-dependants, and they will go out of their way to sacrifice their own needs to accommodate others. 
    If you find it difficult to say no to situations and people and feel responsible for others unhappiness or turmoil, then this is only going to cause issues down the line when eventually it will become too much to handle on your own. 
    You need to focus on yourself, and if it is impacting your happiness, then you may need to evaluate the situation and not compromise yourself. You may also find little or no satisfaction or happiness in life outside of doing things for the other person. 
    7. There feels like a constant push and pull when communicating and interacting with each other.  
    At times, co-dependants have trouble when it comes to communicating their thoughts, feelings or needs to others. This can leave the other person trying to guess what is going on, and it will come as no shock that people are not mind readers. 
    Often you may be afraid to be truthful because as the old saying goes, ‘The truth hurts.’  You might find yourself pretending to be okay with something to appease the other person or find yourself compromising your own beliefs so that it does not cause upset. 
    You or your partner may threaten to leave but then change your mind. Communication can become confusing and dishonest when you try to manipulate emotions or feel like you are being manipulated out of fear.  
    8. There may be anxiety, obsessive or paranoid behaviour within the relationship.  
    You or your partner may experience thoughts about the relationship or believe that things are happening within the confines of the relationship without any evidence. This is caused by anxieties, fears and dependency about what the relationship means and how it could be destroyed. 
    There may be fears about infidelity or being hurt by the other. You or your partner may find yourselves questioning whether the relationship is a mistake and may find yourself lapsing into a fantasy about how you would like things to be as opposed to what they are.  This is to avoid the pain you may feel in the present and keeps you in a state of denial. They won’t reach out and have trouble receiving. They are in denial of their vulnerability and need for love and intimacy. 
    9. There may be fears of rejection, abandonment and emotional unavailability. 

    Co-dependants need people to like them and want to be around them.

    They fear that they will be rejected or abandoned by people close to them, and this may stem from childhood attachments styles and previous experience in relationships. Because of the weak boundaries, they fear that they will be judged, rejected, or left.
     On the other hand, you may fear being smothered in a relationship and losing your autonomy. You might deny your need for closeness and feel that your partner wants too much of your time; your partner complains that you’re unavailable. 
    Some people find it hard to be by themselves for long periods of time and require constant reassurance. This trait makes it hard for them to end a relationship, even if that relationship is abusive. There is a real risk of co-dependants feeling trapped or potentially making the other person feel that too.  
    10. You feel burnout or not do anything you used to enjoy doing  
    It is natural in a relationship to compromise as long as both parties agree to this. You may feel like you or your partner tend to get their own way with decision making (whether that be music or films to watch). You may find that you don’t do any of the hobbies or things you enjoyed doing before you got into the relationship or feel that you can’t do them anymore. 
    You may feel obligated to spend all your free time with your partner. You may start to feel worn down or exhausted with the relationship and might tend to agree just so there are no arguments. You may start to neglect other important relationships. This can impact your sense of personal identity and might make you question who you are if you enable this behaviour to continue.  
    How to change a co-dependent relationship  
    It is important to reassure you that anyone can become co-dependent and you are not abnormal if this happens to you. It is important that you do not punish yourself or your partner but seek support to get the relationship back on track if you feel that this is the right thing to do moving forward. If you decide to part ways, that is also okay and you should not feel guilty if this is what you decide.  
    Breaking up isn’t necessarily the best or only solution. To repair a co-dependent relationship, it’s important to set boundaries and find happiness as an individual.  
    A few things can help in forming a positive, balanced relationship: 

    People in co-dependent relationships may need to take small steps toward some separation in the relationship. They may need to find a hobby or activity they enjoy outside of the relationship. 

    A co-dependent person should try to spend time with supportive family members or friends. 

    The enabler must decide that they are not helping their co-dependent partner by allowing them to make extreme sacrifices. 

    Get in touch
    If you feel like you are or have been in a co-dependent relationship and feel like you may benefit from some support moving forward, then get in touch with My Family Psychologist. 
    We offer different individual therapies as well as relationship and couples therapies. This could be the first step towards a healthier relationship with yourself and your partner. 
    Visit the My Family Psychologist website here.
    Family law advice 
    If you would like any family law advice please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist family lawyers here. More