Supporting children’s wellbeing when working with separating parents

Content type
Event date

25 October 2023, 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm (AEST)


Alesha Akintoye, Ceri Bruce, Amanda Peters, Chris Dolman


Sensitive Content Warning

This webinar covers responding to parental separation where there is not a history of family and domestic violence. However, it may touch on engaging separating parents in conversations about the safety, wellbeing and support needs of their children when living with the ongoing effects of family violence. If you require assistance or would like to talk to a trained professional about the issues described in this resource, please call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

You can also call the Family Relationship Advice Line on 1800 050 321 about family relationship issues and advice on parenting arrangements after separation. 


About this webinar

This webinar was held on Wednesday, 25 October 2023.

Each year many Australian children experience the separation or divorce of their parents or primary caregivers. Although difficult and marked by significant changes, children’s experience of parental separation doesn’t have to be distressing or traumatic. Parents can influence their children’s experience of both the separation process and post-separation life.  

Practitioners trained in family dispute or counselling can help parents navigate separation. In addition, practitioners who don’t have specialised expertise in separation or divorce but who may encounter separating families in their practice – such as GPs, social workers, allied health professionals and teachers – can also play an important role in supporting parents, the parent-child relationship and children’s mental health and wellbeing.  

This webinar will explore how practitioners can make children’s wellbeing central to conversations with parents who are navigating separation and/or divorce.  

This webinar will help you:  

  • understand the potential impacts of separation on parents, the parent–child relationship, and children’s mental health and wellbeing
  • consider how you can make children’s wellbeing a central aspect of conversations with parents who are navigating separation or divorce
  • develop ways to support parents’ wellbeing so they can maintain a healthy parent-child relationship and support their children through the separation process.

This webinar will interest a range of practitioners in health, social and community services who have contact with parents during separation and divorce, but who work outside of specialist family dispute resolution or counselling services.  

This webinar is co-produced by CFCA and Emerging Minds in a series focusing on children’s mental health. They are working together as part of the Emerging Minds: National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health, which is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health under the National Support for Child and Youth Mental Health Program.

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Audio transcript (edited)

CHRIS DOLMAN: Hello everyone, and welcome to this webinar, co-produced by Child Family Community Australia, and Emerging Minds, supporting children’s wellbeing when working with separating parents.

Hi, my name is Chris Dolman, I work with Emerging Minds National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health. And I am really delighted to be with you today, along with our panellists, to bring this topic to you. We will be exploring how practitioners can ensure that children’s wellbeing is a central part of our conversations with parents who are navigating a separation.

So, thanks so much for putting the time aside to join us now, whether you are joining us live or through the recording, it’s great to have you with us. A special shoutout to those that are gathered together with their colleagues as well to watch this webinar. That can be good fun, to watch a webinar together, and then talk about that afterwards. So, hi to you as well.

As we continue, Emerging Minds and CFCA would like to recognise and pay respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the traditional owners of the lands where we work and play and walk on, throughout this country. We acknowledge and respect their traditional connections to their land and waters, culture, spirituality, family and community, for the wellbeing of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families. And acknowledge the long history of skills and knowhow that Aboriginal families bring to taking care of children’s wellbeing as well.

There’s a couple of things I need to mention to you, a bit about in terms of housekeeping. As part of this webinar, we’ll be having a live Q&A time at the end, and so you are really welcome to submit questions via the questions tab in the go-to webinar control panel. As I communicated already, this webinar is being recorded, and it will be available on the Ace website and through the Emerging Minds website in a couple of weeks’ time. So, you’re welcome to check it out again.

Also, just to mention that there are some related readings and handouts that are available in the tabs there that we’ll be referring to throughout the webinar, including the panellist bios and some other supporting resources as well. Actually, just to mention that Emerging Minds will also be shortly releasing some further resources in relation, for families navigating separation. So, keep an eye out for even more resources than what’s listed in those documents there.

Also, at the end of the webinar the other thing just to mention, there will be a short survey. It would be great if you could spend a minute or two completing that, please. That really helps us obviously understand your experience of this and help us get better at what we do. So, look forward to hearing your feedback about that.

In terms of today’s topic, supporting children’s wellbeing while working with separating parents. The panellists and I, we really want to acknowledge obviously, that in Australia many children experience the separation of parents or caregivers every year, and that many parents take care to navigate separation in ways that to look after children’s mental health and wellbeing, of course. And in fact, many families navigate separation without accessing service providers to help them through that.

However, many practitioners, many service providers do come into contact with families of parents navigating separation. And so, we take the position that how parents and families navigate separation can have a significant affect, a significant impact on children’s mental health and wellbeing. And that children’s wellbeing is supported when parents look after their own wellbeing, when they take care of their children’s wellbeing, when they pay attention to how they are going about their parenting as well. So, we really believe that practitioners can strive to ensure that children’s wellbeing is a central aspect of conversations they’re having with parents about the separation, no matter what the context in which that conversation is happening.

That’s a significant role that we can all play when we are working with parents who are working their way through separation and its effects on their lives.

Also, thank you to everyone that has submitted questions already as part of the registration process. That’s great, we’ll be responding to some of those today as well. And also, we did get a number of questions about separation in the context of family violence. That topic is kind of beyond the scope of this particular webinar, but again the panellists and I just wanted to mention a couple of things about that. And then just really to acknowledge how common separation is in a context of family violence, and that separation is a risk point for the commencement or escalation of family violence in families. So, we don’t want to lose sight of those things. And that also, family violence, that a pattern of abuse or violence in families, shapes all aspects really of children’s experience of separation.

And again, one of the handouts available does provide some links to resources if you’d like to investigate that, or extend your knowledge or skills in that area some more. In fact, I think it would be a great topic for a webinar. Alesha mentioned that to me earlier, it would be a great topic for a webinar around separation in the context of family violence. So, perhaps we’ll look out for that next year.

You’ve all got access to the biographies of our panellists today, and so I’m not going to go through those. But I’d like to welcome our panellists to today’s webinar and ask a question. So, Ceri for you, welcome, and thanks for being a part of this today. As a senior dispute resolution practitioner, among other things, what is it that draws you to this particular area of your practice?

CERI BRUCE: I think that nobody knows how to be separated. People don’t get together and have a family, thinking they will separate. So, it is a big learning curve, and I think my passion is supporting parents to do that as best as they possibly can, to assist them to understand the differences that happen. But mostly, to minimise as much conflict for their children, so that they can be the ones that benefit from the support that we can give them, to navigate a really difficult space.

CHRIS DOLMAN: Indeed, thanks Ceri. We’re looking forward to your contributions as we go through the next hour or so. Alesha, what about for you as a family law counsellor. Again, there’s other roles that you do as well, but in that role, what is it that continues to sustain you in this area of work?

ALESHA AKINTOYE: Thank you, Chris. I think what sustains me in this area is, recognising that separation is such a huge period of change for families. And being able to work alongside parents and families to support them as to reduce conflict, and also to support them to understand the children’s point of view in this separation as well. So, being able to see small changes or big changes in the families’ overall wellbeing, it’s really what sustains me in the work.

CHRIS DOLMAN: Thanks, Alesha. Looking forward to your contributions as well. And we also have Amanda joining us. Thank you so much again, Amanda, for being a part of this presentation. Amanda, as a mum, as a person, a parent who has navigated separation, and you’ve contributed to other parts of Emerging Minds work previously as well, how come you decided to accept this invitation to contribute to this webinar, and share your hard-won skills and knowhow about this topic?

AMANDA PETERS: Thanks, Chris. I chose to be a part of this today, in the hopes of sharing my story or my experiences might help others out there, whether they have gone through separation themselves, but it also might give the practitioners listening an idea, or a different point of view about what the parent is going through. So, just in hopes that I could help in some way.

CHRIS DOLMAN: Great, really looking forward to those hopes flowing through our chat today. Okay folks, I thought we’d really move on to the first area of conversation. And it’s in relation to understanding the potential impacts of separation on children. And there could be a long list of these that we could make, couldn’t we, of the potential impacts of separation on children’s lives. But for each of you, perhaps Ceri I will start with you, what is it that you’re most keen for practitioners that don’t routinely work in this area, what are you most keen for them to understand about the effects of separation on children?

CERI BRUCE: I think that for the children, they are really powerless in this space. So, if you are working with parents, that it’s really, really important to help them understand that, that every decision they make is going to affect their children. And that often, we don’t see them when they’re at their best. So, it’s about encouraging that emotional regulation, about supporting them to see the bigger picture rather than breaking it down into those little minute things that can be managed.

So, just to help them understand that every decision they’re going to make from this point on will impact their children, so it has to be done wisely and calmly.

CHRIS DOLMAN: And by them understanding that, what are you hoping for parents if they do understand what you hope they do.

CERI BRUCE: That they can make it as easy a transition for children as possible. It is a big job to move and to have different homes and different places and different family setups, but it can be done in a way that minimises any of that negative impact for children.

CHRIS DOLMAN: Alesha, what about for you, what are you most keen for practitioners that don’t work in this area usually, to understand about the effects of separation on kids?

ALESHA AKINTOYE: Similar to what Ceri said actually, and I’m really keen for people to understand that separation doesn’t have to have a negative impact on children’s mental health, and it’s the unresolved conflict that causes the impacts for young people. I’m really keen for them to understand the changes that happen in children’s and young people’s lives when there is a separation. As Ceri said, that might be living in a different home or family home, or it might be about they’re not longer seeing extended family members. There’s a lot of big changes that happen for children.

CHRIS DOLMAN: So, this point about it doesn’t have to be negative on kids. Again, why is that so significant for you in your work, to really hold that position?

ALESHA AKINTOYE: I see a lot of parents that come in with this idea, and in society we have this idea that separation will automatically have this negative impact on children. And it’s really empowering to help them to understand that it doesn’t have to be that way. But when parents are able to communicate effectively, when they are able to be child focussed and keep the children’s viewpoint and their experiences at the heart, then children don’t have to have negative impacts from separation.

CHRIS DOLMAN: We’ll probably get some chances to explore those things a bit further as well Alesha, thank you. Amanda, for you, from your perspective, what would you be most keen for practitioners to understand effects on kids?

AMANDA PETERS: Definitely following on with what the other ladies have said, that it does impact children on all different levels. And it doesn’t have to be negative definitely, and sometimes it’s about creating the new. I think sometimes we get focussed on how things used to be, but it’s about moving forward as well. So, it might be things like starting new traditions and new celebrations and things, because sometimes it is hard to keep the way things were done going, when you were a part of a two-parent income or setting or home. But definitely moving forward, starting new traditions.

And I think that’s particularly one of the things that I’ve learnt as time goes on, is that there are no quick fixes with separation, and we do the best that we can. But sometimes we will come back to it as well, it will come back up in other contexts. So, I think it’s really important for practitioners to know that once a separation might be finalised, or mediation might be done, that quite often we have to go back there and revisit it. And the needs of the children or their ages change, and that we need to then re-look at that, or refocus on them. So, it’s never kind of done, I guess, is my feelings on what practitioners should know.

CHRIS DOLMAN: Great, thank you for that. And just following on from that and turning our attention to the idea of it’s never done. And I’m just thinking about therefore in terms of the support that parents might need, again from your perspective Amanda, how important is it do you think for practitioners to pay attention to parents’ wellbeing as they are meeting with them, rather than immediately turning attention to children’s wellbeing, and their parenting. How important or significant is that do you think?

AMANDA PETERS: I think it’s probably honestly the most important thing. So, the way that I look at it is, it’s a pyramid or a hierarchy system, and me as the parent is I’m on top of that pyramid, my children are underneath me, my work, my finances, my goals, living, everything else is like a flow-on effect. So, the healthier I am, whether that’s physically, my mental health, my mindset, the better I’m doing, the better that flows down, so then the happier my children are. The more that I can achieve work goals or finance goals, but it’s definitely that flow-on. It’s that whole, you can’t pour from an empty cup, scenario. It’s very hard to care for someone else when you’re not caring for yourself.

CHRIS DOLMAN: And so for you, practitioners’ kind of paying some attention to that, or making sure they’re focussing on that, do you think that makes a difference to parents from your perspective Amanda, when that attention is directed to their wellbeing initially?

AMANDA PETERS: Absolutely. Because I think when the parent has a positive mindset, and they’re not looking at it that it’s negative, or it’s all doom and gloom, and they do have a positive mindset about it, that they can then pass that onto the children a little bit. Things are going to be different, or we might move, or we might not see this person as much. But look at where we’re going to live now, or your new room. Or if the parent has a positive outlook, I feel that the child or the children are more likely to have positive outlooks on a situation as well.

CHRIS DOLMAN: Alesha for you, what place does focussing on parents’ wellbeing play in your work, when you’re beginning to meet with them?

ALESHA AKINTOYE: It’s a very important role. In fact, I really move the conversation to shift in that way, because in my role, often parents come in to speak about maybe behaviours that they’re noticing in their children, or parenting or co-parenting. But I purposefully really like to focus at the start on the parents and what’s happening for them, because separation comes with so many changes. And parents are really handling practical challenges, also emotional challenges, because they’ve had a breakdown of a significant relationship happen.

So, I like to check-in and see how they are coping, what supports they have around them. And also, I keep in mind that this might be the first time that parents have had a space to talk to someone outside of family, outside of friends, about their own personal experience of separation.

CHRIS DOLMAN: So, how do you do that, if they’re talking about their kids, and concerns of course about their kids, do you sort of pause the conversation or something and redirect that? How do you do that in a practical way?

ALESHA AKINTOYE: I often ask, often they’ve come in and they are talking about the separation and impacts on the children, and I might just ask, “It sounds like the family has gone through a lot. How have you coped through this? What supports do you have in place? How are you looking after yourself?” Like Amanda said, looking at, I really love the picture you painted of the hierarchy, because the parents are at the top. And parents are only able to care for and respond to children when they feel as if they’re supported themselves, and they’re at capacity enough to give that love and care and attention, and to parent the way that they want to parent.

CHRIS DOLMAN: Great, thank you. Ceri, you’re nodding to a few things that Amanda and Alesha – in your work, how do you go about checking in about parents’ wellbeing, what place does it have for you?

CERI BRUCE: A little bit different than Alesha, that the parents come to me to get that. So, the children often can get a little bit lost. So, we’ve structured it so that each parent has their own appointment with a practitioner, and in there they can share. And that’s where we talk to them about the grief, the loss, the change, and maybe we can refer to other services. We can’t actually support the parents in the mediation space, but we can refer them for different types of support.

Once we’ve kind of heard how it is for them and everything, then we can redirect them a little bit about what are their hopes, what are their dreams for their children now, that that family structure has changed. But I often think, I love that hierarchy, but I often think about that oxygen mask in the plane. And I say to parents, there’s a reason you get the oxygen mask first, because you have to be able to help your children move on with the changes, that you as adults have decided to make.

So, grief and loss is a big part of supporting the parents. And that would be acknowledged in many, many phases during a mediation about that difficulty, and about that support.

CHRIS DOLMAN: And drawing on that mask metaphor, how are you hoping that parents respond to that conversation?

CERI BRUCE: I think like Alesha said, often this is the first time they’ve talked to someone about how they’re feeling. Because you are so busy dealing with the practicalities of separating, like new rentals, whether you keep, don’t keep bank accounts. I think sometimes it’s the first time often I say, “Gee, that’s really tough.” And you can see them soften and melt, and often cry, that, “Yeah, it is really tough.” And when you ask, “What do you need, what could help you?” Sometimes that’s the first time they’ve thought about helping themselves, because of all those other really, really busy logistical things that need to be taken care of.

CHRIS DOLMAN: I might move our attention now towards a theme around supporting parents in relation to their parenting, and the parent/child relationship as well. And so, perhaps just following on, Ceri, from what you were saying then, in what ways do you currently support parents to take this child-focussed approach to their parenting, as they are navigating separation?

CERI BRUCE: We would certainly talk to them one-on-one in those intake appointments. But we also have an information session that we like both parents to attend prior to the mediation. Because we’ve got a lot of research and evidence about the ways that separation impacts parents. We talk about those developmental stages, as Amanda said, how children change, and how often as a parent they think that everything negative is from the separation. But we kind of normalise that space to saying there’s lots of challenges in a childhood anyway. So, putting it into perspective, that could be a developmental change, not necessarily anything to do with the separation itself.

And then we just kind of, all of our conversations are about the children, how do you both want to support them, what’s really important for you in this space. And then at the end, any agreements we record, we record them from the children’s perspective about how the parents have agreed to care for them from now on. So, they’re written about the children, to kind of keep that focus.

CHRIS DOLMAN: Alesha, for you, if I could ask you about some of the dilemmas or challenges that might come up in this area of practice, where you are seeking to invite parents into a child-focussed approach to their parenting. Would that be okay to launch into some of the challenges you might come across, or is there something else you’d want to say about your practice for doing that?

ALESHA AKINTOYE: We can go into that, that’s fine. So, some of the practice dilemmas that come up when supporting parents is, there’s often still a lot of pain and a lot of hurt, and as Ceri said, a lot of grief as well from the relationship. So, often when we are talking about how to support the family and how to support children, that can get in the way, and that can look like parents blaming the other parents. Or having this idea of winning as well, which takes away the focus from the child, and it takes it right back into that emotional state that parents are in. So, that’s always a big challenge.

And I find actually naming that with parents and saying, “I can see that there’s a lot of hurt. I can see that this relationship meant a lot to you, and now you’ve separated, and you are now dealing with some of that yourself.” So, really naming it and checking what supports are in place for them, and letting them know it’s normal to have those feelings.

And also, I try to use a bit of a metaphor with parents around looking at this new chapter as a book that they’re writing, and that means that they can actually flick back through the old chapter and through the old pages, which is very normal, and it’s okay. And who is a safe person they can do that with, what supports do they need around doing that, so that it’s not impacting upon the children. So, having those sort of conversations with parents, which can all be challenging.

CHRIS DOLMAN: Amanda, I’d like to ask you a similar question, but I’m just noticing some questions coming in. Thanks for those that are submitting questions already as part of our webinar. So, there’s a question Ceri or Alesha, if there’s been a rift in the relationship between the parent and child, do you have any advice about the repair of the parent/child relationship during separation? So, we could be imagining that a parent is describing this rift in some way, and might be kind of at their wits end a bit in terms of how to respond to this. How would you proceed with that? Ceri, do you have some initial ideas about that?

CERI BRUCE: Look, it’s very common, much more common than people think. And the first instance it’s often blamed on the other parent. So, bringing that parent that’s experienced it back to their behaviours, what they already know about their children, what do they think could have happened. And just helping them see their part in that as well. And then looking at, reminding parents that often in this space, as I said, children are incredibly powerless. And so, that’s one way they can exert some power is just, “I’m not coming anymore. I’m not seeing you anymore.” And then once they do that, they often don’t know how to retract from that.

So, I talk to the parents about helping them support that, and saying that often children want to go slowly in that re-repair, and reconnect, whereas the parents just want to go straight back to what it was beforehand. So, really looking at it from there.

We also have what we call child inclusive mediation, so we can give the children a chance to have a voice in the mediation space, separate from the parents and in a really safe confidential way, where they own that information until they give us permission to share it with their parents. That is incredibly powerful when parents hear directly from their children, how they’re feeling and what they’re thinking. We make sure they know that there’s no parenting decisions put upon them, this is their chance to share with someone who understands and is not involved, about how they’re feeling.

So, often that is very powerful for parents to hear, that “No, actually that little girl or that little boy doesn’t like you raising your voice, or doesn’t like the fact that you won’t let them go to their friends when they’re with you. Or wants to do their sports on the weekends when they’re there.” Rather than it being blaming each of the parents for what’s happening.

CHRIS DOLMAN: I guess no matter what context we work in, that’s what lies before us isn’t it, thinking about ways how we can bring children’s voices into our work with parents. Where children are being affected by the very things we are talking about, what creative ways can we seek to have children present, voices present, views present in our work. So, ethics, practices, and accountability in relation to kids. So, thank you for that.

Amanda, I did want to ask you a bit about when practitioners are seeking to have conversations with parents about their parenting, or the parent/child relationship. Of course, sometimes separation can make it more possible for parents to parent in a way that they prefer, it becomes more possible for them to parent in a way that’s closer to their own values. But sometimes through navigating separation, parenting can be – it can be harder for parents to parent in a way that they’d prefer. Sometimes parents might end up saying things, or doing things to kids that are against their better judgement, and focus gets shifted off of children’s wellbeing.

Just from your perspective, I guess a couple of questions really. How hard is it for parents to be taking up those invitations to talk about their parenting, when that’s the case, and how can practitioners support parents to speak more about those things? Do you have some reflections?

AMANDA PETERS: Yeah, I definitely do. The word grief has come up a fair amount, and I think that word can summarise the end of a relationship so well. So, I remember going to, I think it was my first two sessions, and I realised it was time and I needed to go see a psychologist, and have this unload and this debrief and talk about everything that had happened.

And I remember, I think my first two sessions, I just sat there and cried. I actually don’t think we had any conversation back or forth, because it was a safe space, and it was just someone that was outside my situation. And this relief just to have a moment to myself where I wasn’t trying to put on a brave face, or people weren't asking me all these questions about, “Where are you going to live? Where are you going to go? What about the kids? Blah blah blah.” But it was just, I felt like I had the space to just grieve, and that was really important.

But definitely as I started to work through that it can be really confronting, because we are all human. And I think it’s really important to acknowledge that nobody is perfect. So, for the practitioner, obviously being professional in not to judge the parent, because we all have said stuff that we think, “Oh, I shouldn’t have done that, or responded, or reacted.” And then in the moment, because you’re emotional, your whole life is turned upside down, your emotions are riding high, you’re stressed, your mind is all over the shop. Telling a practitioner, going, “Well, actually, you know, I wasn’t my best self, and I said this, or I did this,” can be really confronting, because that’s not the person who you genuinely are.

And also, I think as well, you can be embarrassed by that as well. So, it can be really hard to share that with someone that is a professional, to go, “Hey, I acted in this way.” But then, having the professional respond to you going, “You know what, you didn’t go into this,” as Ceri said, “expecting that the relationship would end.” Or that it’s normal. Egos get in the road, and that’s completely normal in this situation. But moving forward I think, is the really big thing is, we are going to focus on the children for now.

So, I know from my own personal experience – and it did take time, it did not happen overnight between my children’s dad and myself, it took time. But we really went back to our key saying was, “Well, what’s best for the kids?” So, it wasn’t what was best for him or what was best for me, it was what was best for them. And we did eventually get really good at doing things that were out of our way or not always the easiest for us, but it was best for the kids.

And they really don’t have a say. There is so much that is out of their control. And so, we tried really hard to give them a voice whenever they could. And like I said, it did take time, but we did get to that point of, well if the kids wanted to stay longer at his house, that they could. Or if they’d planned to go there say for the weekend, but they wanted to come home early, that was okay. If they wanted to call either parent, we would make that happen.

And then particularly as the children got older as well, we gave them more control over that, that structure of every second weekend or holidays and all that moved away, and it kind of eventually got to be more flexible. But it really did take time and it was a process.

CHRIS DOLMAN: I just want to pick up on something you said, and perhaps ask Alesha a question. All the questions are being sent in. And Alesha, Amanda kind of alluded to this, but a question is, how can practitioners help parents address any shame or guilt that might arise for them in relation to the impacts of separation on children? How can practitioners respond to those experiences of shame and guilt that parents, because of their realisations perhaps about how separation is negatively impacting kids?

ALESHA AKINTOYE: I think really normalising the feelings that they are experiencing actually, and naming them, if the parents haven’t named them themselves. And saying, “It sounds like you are experiencing grief, there’s a lot of hurt there, there’s a lot of pain, and I can see shame as well the way you are talking about something,” for example. And also, I would usually work with parents around what values they hold onto. So, what are the hopes for themselves and the family in the future, when the children are adults and they’re 20 years’ old, “What would you like them to learn from you? What would you like them to say about this time in their life?” So, really connecting them back to what’s important about them and the values that they hold.

And also, when you are connecting them with those values, you’re asking around, “If something like this was to happen again, if maybe you had a big response or reaction that you really didn’t want to, but you were really overwhelmed in that moment – if something like this happens again, how would you like to respond?”

And also, having a conversation around even though we might like to respond in this way, it’s not always going to happen, we’re not perfect. So, when you do have that bigger response, how can you go back and maybe repair with your children, what does repair look like. That might be having a conversation around what happened, it might be getting ice-cream out and having some ice-cream together and having a bit of a chat. Or if your children are younger, maybe cuddles on the couch. But really talking about there being repair. Because there will be ruptures, there will be times where parents don’t respond in the exact way that they would have hoped to. But it’s really about the repair, when things like that happen.

CHRIS DOLMAN: I really appreciate you mentioning, the shame and guilt can point to some of the values that perhaps parents hold, that you can then invite them to describe and think how they might become more present say, in their parenting, or in the support of their children. So, thank you for that.

I think we’ll move on to the next thing, in relation to practitioners supporting parents to support their children. Amanda, again to you perhaps to begin this theme for us. You might have started to speak a bit about this, but when practitioners invite parents to reflect on how separation has been for their child, how important is it for the practitioner to seek to understand what's already going on, or what the parent is already doing to support the child. How important has that played for you?

AMANDA PETERS: I think it’s really important to validate what the parent is already doing, or what they’ve got in place. If they’ve mentioned something, and just by saying, “That was a really good idea, or that was a really good strategy,” and then kind of tweaking on it.

So, I personally find really well, is when people give me stories or examples of, even if it’s made up, and you just go, “Oh, I had this other client, or this other customer, and they’ve tried this, and it worked really well.” And if it’s in like a story format, it sticks in my brain and I go, “Oh, that’s a really good idea. I’m going to try that.”

But it’s definitely about validating what they are all doing. And even if it’s really small or seems insignificant, because it might be a big deal for them, or it’s one extra thing that they have to do in their day, or make sure it’s accomplished. And during the time of a separation or after you can, even if it is a mutual separation or it’s not, I use the term doom and gloom, or it’s all negative. It can still make you feel as a parent though that you’ve failed, because your relationship has broken down, regardless of whether it’s mutual or not. So, there’s this part of you that thinks, “Did I fail as a parent? Is my child going to be okay? Have I scarred them for life?” All these negative things are running through your head you’re trying to fight against.

So, when you’ve got this professional, this well-educated person in your corner telling you, “You did really good. That was a good job.” And they’re helping you grow what you’ve already started, you’re kind of just in your head going, “Oh, I am doing something right. I’m going to be okay. We’re going to get through this.” And I think it is important.

CHRIS DOLMAN: So, that experience of failure or whatever goes with that, overwhelm, and that that can kind of obscure those things that parents are doing from their own view, in a way?

AMANDA PETERS: Absolutely. Because you think you’re not doing good enough, you could have done better. Or the terrible thing of comparing yourself to other people, or “They’ve got it together. They’re a happy family, why can’t I?” You’ve got to stop that.

CHRIS DOLMAN: What difference do you think it makes to parents to have that, through the practitioner’s enquiries, to have that more apparent to them what they are actually doing well, what difference do you think that makes for parents to be able to see that?

AMANDA PETERS: It’s important because it’s validating what they are doing. And I think it’s that steppingstone of where to go from here. “So, you’ve tried this? Or you’re doing that and it’s working, so could you expand that slightly by doing this? Have you thought about including this within it as well?” It gives that opportunity for growth.

CHRIS DOLMAN: Ceri, could I ask you a bit more about that as well, in terms of how do you go about supporting parents, helping them to reflect on, well firstly what they’ve noticed about their child’s experience of separation, that I guess first. And then how they might then go about extending on that, how do you do that in your work?

CERI BRUCE: I think as Amanda said, those moments when you just reinforce or affirm that they’re doing a good job, you can see them just bloom and blossom. So, they are so important in that space. But I guess for me, I always start where they are at. So, I always begin by a discussion, opening up the discussions about, “What are you doing? How have you managed this so far?” So, that I don’t come in as someone over-the-top that is telling them how they should do it.

So, we kind of clarify what’s been working, and then I say, “So, how’s that been for your kids? What’s been good about that? Where are the difficulties? What is it that you want to talk about today? And where would you like to be?” So that they’re always at the centre of all the decision making, so that they don’t feel like I am someone that’s there to tell them what they should or shouldn’t be doing. That I’m the one that facilitates the conversations about what they want for their children.

Now, I can be the children’s voice in that space, to kind of go, “Oh, okay. So, what would it be like for your child if they couldn’t do this? I understand that you’ve got things on and all the rest.” I can do that, but in a way that just makes them think about the effect on the children, rather than saying, “That won’t work for your children.”

So, yeah, it’s always about starting where they are, and then reminding them, “Well hey, you’ve done this without anybody else, so you’re already halfway there.” And you can see them then become more confident and being more child-focussed.

CHRIS DOLMAN: Alesha, for you, are there similar enquiries that you make, or something you might do differently to that, to really help parents notice how their kids are going, and what they can also be doing to support them?

ALESHA AKINTOYE: Yes, I think there’s similar enquiries to what Ceri just reflected on. And also, I might ask around the bits that I know can be tricky for families, which is usually the handovers between parents. So, I might ask what are they noticing in the days running up to the changeover/handover period when they go with the other parent? What do they notice when they come back to you, to your home? Because often parents are already noticing some things happening and some changes in behaviour, and the way their children are coping. And then I check in to see what have they tried, have they tried anything to support the children. Often there are things that have already been changed, they’ve already adapted, they’ve already responded to the children.

And like Amanda has said, it’s about extending that to saying, “Oh, well you’ve tried this already. Have you ever thought about this as well, would that work?” So, there’s often so many ways in which parents have responded, and created a space where children can have downtime when they come back to them. Or maybe they have a child who is very chatty and wants to download and tell them the whole week that they’ve had when they’ve been with the other parent. So, they might put time aside for that conversation to happen.

So, really checking-in around what parents have already noticed, and what they’ve put in place, and then building on that.

CHRIS DOLMAN: Thank you to both of you. Actually, Ceri, could I just ask you. It’s possible isn’t it, and we can imagine, or you may not have to imagine, you might know, of parents for whom noticing their children, how their children are going might be quite a thing, quite a step to take, even in amongst all of what they are dealing with in relation to separation?

CERI BRUCE: You’re absolutely right, yes.

CHRIS DOLMAN: So, how do you go with that? What can practitioners do when that’s the case, where perhaps parents are a bit oblivious to kids’ experience?

CERI BRUCE: I can often talk to them about their own experiences of their childhood, and what was important to them. Even if their parents didn’t separate, you can often connect for them with it about what was it like when dad came home from work, or mum went off to work, how did you feel. So, normalising that transition period as being difficult for children anyway. Often that helps them connect with their own children. I’m a big storyteller, so I’ll often share a story even made up about a child that really had difficulties, and what the parents did and how it helped.

So, there’s lots of ways you can get them out of their own view, into being a bit more of a child view.

CHRIS DOLMAN: Storytelling, it sounds like you and Amanda would get on well. And what about for you Alesha, are there other dilemmas you’ve found in seeking to invite parents to be understanding more about their kids’ experience, and extending on the support they’re already providing?

ALESHA AKINTOYE: Some dilemmas often, sometimes there are parents who, as you alluded to before Chris, who do have a really difficult time seeing their child’s point of view. And they can often diminish the child’s point of view as well. So, it’s really about asking into, sometimes I ask if little Jacob was here in this room with us, I’ll ask them about, “When you said these things to him, what do you think he might say about that? Or what do you think he might tell me about what's been happening?” Or I might even ask, “If I had the two of you in the room, if you were here with your child, what might be the big elephant in the room that no-one really talks about.” So, I might ask that as well, so that can really help them to try to see things from the child’s perspective, or try to understand that there could be possibly a different perspective to what they see as well.

CHRIS DOLMAN: How do parents go with that sometimes; do they grab hold of those conversations?

ALESHA AKINTOYE: It can be challenging sometimes, but often I think if you spend some time trying to get to know the child, and then also bringing the child’s viewpoint into things, it can help them to see how things have been impacting the child day to day.

CHRIS DOLMAN: I guess you’ve been asking questions of the parent without the child being there, but still questions about just other aspects of the child’s life, or getting a bit of a picture of this child before entering into those realms might be helpful, I don’t know.


CHRIS DOLMAN: Okay folks, it’s time for us, probably over time for us to be turning our attention to some of the questions that are coming in. And again, please continue to send in some further questions about that. There’s been a question about infants actually, Ceri. If I could ask a question perhaps more broadly as well. But do you have any tips, or what do you say, how do you work with parents – what tips do you have for parent to support children of different ages, through parental separation? And maybe if you could weave something in about working with parents of infants as part of that as well?

CERI BRUCE: It’s a big question in mediation, because we’ve kind of got this very set idea that anybody under two shouldn’t have overnights. And I absolutely understand where that came from. It was when predominantly mothers were home with their children, they were the main carer, that attachment was really important. But I think it’s an under-researched area, that now we have both parents who work, children who go to childcare very early.

So, I often refer to the Australian Infant Mental Health piece that they did, where they really highlighted that that supporting infants to stay at both parents houses after separation, is more about the parent’s relationship. So, is there an existing relationship between the parents and that child already? Can the parents cooperate? And as Amanda said, can they change and navigate if the child isn't managing, what are you doing to do?

So, I like to take it away from the generalised conversations, but to talk to the parents about them and their relationship, and their family and their circumstances, and “What would make that work for you guys? What would you do if it wasn’t working.” Because that’s the most significant thing for me, often parents can try something and it works once, and they go, “Oh good, we’ll do this forever.” And then three visits later it all falls apart. So, it’s about having those big, big difficult conversations about, “How do you guys want to manage this? What’s important for you?”

I think that the ability for parents to tune in and attend to their children is the most important thing in the space, the conversations.

CHRIS DOLMAN: So, that kind of applies no matter what the age of the child is, in a sense, that’s kind of what… the gist.

CERI BRUCE: Yes. And some older children struggle with that separation more than their younger brothers or sisters. So, not applying general rules to children, but adapting to each child and their developmental and all those things.

CHRIS DOLMAN: Amanda, what about for you, from your experience. I know you’ve alluded to this a bit earlier when you were talking about your own children getting older, but do you have any sort of tips for parents to support children through different ages, what would you say to that?

AMANDA PETERS: Yeah, definitely. So, going to the opposite end of the scale, I want to talk about teams. My children were younger when their dad and I separated, but over the years the conversation has come back up, either what happened, or as we’ve got new partners or things like that. But I have a teenager daughter in particular, where it keeps coming up for her. So, one of the things that we do to keep an open line of communication, because if you’ve got a teenager, you know you are not getting a lot of information from them.

So, one of the things that we do, is that we have a book, almost like a diary that goes between us, and it’s kind of like our unsaid conversations. So, we won’t necessarily talk face-to-face a lot about it, but if something is on her mind, she’ll write it down in the book, kind of like a Dear Mum, blah blah blah. And it gives me a really good insight into how she’s feeling or what she is thinking about, and she’ll leave it usually under my pillow or something like that, and I’ll go, “Okay, something is on her mind.” I will read it and then I’ll respond back, and same them goes under the pillow. So, it’s like a secret conversation between us.

But I guess, just thinking about outside the box too of how you can support children, and continually offering them olive branches. So, the first time you try something it may not work, but on the seventh time they might grab it, or they might open up more. I have a son, and so he likes to play basketball. So, we can just be out there shooting hoops together, and before I know it, he’s got verbal diarrhoea, and all the stuff is coming out that I had no idea was on his mind. And I go, “Okay, wait.” And you’ve got to think on your feet and stuff like that.

I think no matter what age, one of the things that is really important as well is obviously spending that time with them. Because when you are spending that time with them, and you’re not distracted on a phone, or trying to multitask seven other different things as we try to do, it gives them openings to talk about what’s going on in their little minds. And that can be when they’re little as well, or toddlers, that seeing through that comfort, they want the cuddles and stuff like that. So, having that time where you are sitting down and giving them that. And then as they get older, the attention looks different, but then yeah it comes out.

CHRIS DOLMAN: We’ve had another question come too, about Alesha perhaps for you. What strategies do you draw on when you are working with parents who aren’t so supportive of their children’s wellbeing, they might be showing unhealthy behaviours, or alienating behaviours towards the child? How do you go about responding to some of those difficult circumstances?

ALESHA AKINTOYE: I would probably start by checking in with the parent around some of the challenges that they are facing as a parent. So, really listening to their experience and what’s been difficult and challenging for them, and what maybe behaviour they’re seeing in their child, whatever age their child may be, that they’re finding really challenging to respond to in an appropriate way. And then again, checking in what that might be like for the child. So, if the parent has responded or said something or done something, what might that experience be like for the child, what may they understand about that coming from mum or dad.

I might also check in around their own childhood, and if someone was able to listen and respond to them. And what it may have been like if someone could, how did they do that. If they weren't able to, what was that like for them. So, trying to connect them back to their own childhood.

And I might also ask some future orientated questions. So, “If this behaviour continues, or if you respond in this way continuously with your child when they’re 18 years old, how likely is it that you think they would still want a relationship with you? And is that what you want for your relationship with your child?” So, really asking some challenging questions to get them to see the impact, and hopefully to move towards a repair. That’s usually how I would approach supporting the parent.

AMANDA PETERS: Can I just add onto that? So, I think what Alesha said was just perfect. One of the things throughout my separation, and even now still as a parent is, I will ask myself what type of parent do I want to be. And that’s what I come back to. And that can be hard to navigate, you’ve got to learn strategies for when you want to – you’re trying to respond, I guess, without reacting. And that takes lots of practise.

But definitely come back to, what kind of parent do I want to be, so when my children are grown, what do they want to look back, or how would they describe me to somebody else. And I think that’s something you’ve got to keep in the back of your mind, because it can be so easy to get caught up in egos and situations and everything like that, so you have to come back to what kind of parent do I want to be. And what's best for my children, or what’s best for our child. So, I think that was lovely, Alesha.

CHRIS DOLMAN: Ceri, there’s another question that’s come in about where a child might decide or indicate, a child or young person that would like to spend more time with a parent or change the arrangements somehow, children can give feedback about these arrangements can’t they. And in fact, it’s important for kids. We know from research it’s important for kids that this kind of feedback is listened to. But the question is about how do you help parents accept and listen to the child or the young person, I guess perhaps where that might be hard for them to do that, to accept.

CERI BRUCE: It is hard for them. It is hard, especially if their contact with their child is not very much, and then the child chooses to even lessen that. But what I can talk to the parent about is other ways of making contact. So, as children get older, they like to use the messengers or video chat. So, sometimes I’m actually teaching parents how to use technology, so they can have that extra contact with them. It’s not a phone call that you want, but a message or a photo or a meme is still contact. That’s still your child reaching out to you.

So, getting them to see that as a positive. Or maybe they don’t want to stay overnight, but hey they might want to go to the shop and have a milkshake or a coffee, or maybe you could be the one to take them for their new footy boots. So, kind of just reframing it that we as adults see the quality of a contact in time, but really, the children see it as the experience of being with that parent. And that’s often enough to help them shift their perspective to, “Oh, okay. The time is for me, but what they remember about me,” like Amanda said, “is what’s important to them.”

And often, not always, but often that’s enough for a parent to go, “Oh, okay.” And then as Alesha said, later on that’s what that child will look back at. And then when they are ready, often the contact increases again. So, just reassuring parents that this could be temporary, this could be circumstantial, but how are you going to work with it, not fight against it in this space.

CHRIS DOLMAN: Maybe time for one more perhaps, and that’s about a question around tips or advice, or ways of working with families from diverse cultural backgrounds or other diverse families going through separation. Alesha, that’s a big question. What would be important for practitioners to keep in mind perhaps, when they are meeting with families from a cultural background different to their own, from your perspective?

ALESHA AKINTOYE: I think remembering that families who are from a CALD or diverse background, they are going through separation just like any other family, and they are experiencing all of the ups and downs, and the practical and emotional challenges that come with that as well. And really leading with curiosity to find out and understand more about how their culture might be impacting their experience of separation. And that might be checking in with them what values are held in the culture around marriage, and around separation. If there has been any separation in their community, or if the separation might mean that there is less contact for them and their children in the community, and what that means for them.

And I think it’s really important to understand that even if we’ve worked as practitioners with a family from a certain background, and then we have another family come in from that background, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all things are going to be copy and paste. We really do need to leave of curiosity, and get to know more about them, because they might have different family experiences and different ideas around marriage and separation. So, really checking in what is important about their culture for us as practitioners to know.

CHRIS DOLMAN: Yeah, I guess you want to look at the meanings that the families are making of their experience of separation, isn't it? And so, to really be, as you said, drawing on that curiosity. Thank you for those reflections. I think we’re almost out of time, folks, so we might need to finish there.

Thank you to all those that have submitted questions through the webinar as well as beforehand. Actually, once we finish the webinar, we’ll be staying around to respond to some more of those questions. That will be recorded, then that will be added on to the webinar recording. So, you will be able to get a bonus version when you log onto the Ace website in a couple of weeks’ time, when some of those questions are addressed.

So, thank you Ceri, Alesha, Amanda for sharing your knowledges, your skills, your lived experience wisdoms in relation to this really important topic. I’d like to also thank all of you for tuning in. As I said, setting time aside to really focus on this area of your practice, thank you for that. Thanks to the Ace communications team and the people behind the scenes here at Emerging Minds for making this webinar possible as well.

Please don’t forget, if you don’t already, to subscribe to the Ace newsletter, and the Emerging Minds newsletter, to keep up to date with different resources and other opportunities that are possible to link in with. And just a reminder about the feedback survey as well that you get notified as well.

Again, there’s the resources there for you to link in with as well. So, thanks so much, everyone, and we look forward to getting together again for our next webinar. So, we’ll see you next time. Thank you very much.

CHRIS DOLMAN: Hi again everyone, and welcome back to this extended Q&A time. We are going to now respond to some further questions that have been submitted as part of the webinar. And Ceri, I would just like to start with you with this first question. Someone’s asked, how do you convey the importance of a child focussed approach to parents that aren’t open to it? I’m curious just to how you know parents wouldn’t be open to it for a start. What would alert you?

CERI BRUCE: I guess the conversations that they have, they’re more about them, their experience, their hurt. Which is important as we’ve kind of alluded to. But when it’s time to shift them to the children, sometimes they name it. Sometimes they say, “That’s a very adult lens. Can we shift it to being the lens of your children, what it would be like for them? I will listen to and I will understand how it is for you, but in this space it’s really important that you are talking about your children’s care arrangements, you are talking about the issues that is going to make life easier for your children. Some of those things that you’re talking to me about, have to be handled separately, and may even be in another space.”

So, not dismissing or diminishing their view, but just really helping them see the difference between what an adult lens looks like, and what a child’s lens looks like.

CHRIS DOLMAN: And in flagging that other space, you sort of might then refer them to another service or something to speak more about their own experience, or something like that.

CERI BRUCE: Yes. And I might say, “That’s a big issue for you to be dealing with, and unfortunately, I can’t do it for you. But I can help you find somebody who can.” So, that often helps the adults relax a little bit and shift their focus.

CHRIS DOLMAN: Alesha, perhaps a question for you about parents going through the court system and the stress and conflict that can be a part of that. How do you support parents to manage that stress and that conflict to find their way through that, what do you find helpful?

ALESHA AKINTOYE: I think checking in around what their experience of the court system has been so far, or what it was while they were going through the courts. As we know, it can be stressful, overwhelming. Often there’s high conflict already, which is why they need to go through the court process. And there’s a high level of frustration that’s often there for parents as well. And I often check in to see what they do to cope with that enormous amount of stress that’s on them, and if there is a service that’s currently supporting them, or if they have friends or family that they speak to about this heaviness.

I also check in to see if there’s something that they do for themselves in terms of self-care, when they are becoming really overwhelmed. Because that gives a good indication of how parents are coping. It might be that they have already some healthy strategies in place, or they might need some support to find out what works for them. It might also be that there are some unhealthy strategies that are being used to cope with the stress, so that opens up an opportunity for me to talk more to them about what other supports might be out there, to help them to lean more into healthy behaviours.

And I also speak with parents around overloading the children with the process of the court. Because often parents are reporting back to children around what’s been said between lawyers, or this really heavy stuff. So, I ask what they think is okay for children to know and for children to carry about what’s happening in the courts, and what do you think is too heavy for them. So, it might just be a really broad statement that they are giving to children around the court process, and then saving those really heavy conversations and detailed conversations for their support people. So, having a real in depth look with parents around how they best support themselves and their children whilst going through the court process.

CHRIS DOLMAN: I guess sometimes those court processes can include the other parent doing or saying things that are unhelpful, to say the least. Or can add to that stress and that conflict as well kind of, so they’re sort of having to manage some of that as well.

ALESHA AKINTOYE: Yes, absolutely.

CHRIS DOLMAN: I guess on a little bit of a similar theme Ceri for you, in terms of situations where parents have different goals for their child, it was a question that came in. How do you respond in those situations where there is a difference in what the parents are wanting for their children? Is there practices that come to mind for you that stand you in good stead in that situation?

CERI BRUCE: Yes, absolutely. And one of the things I say is, often you’ve separated because of those different goals, so manage them in that space is part of this process, so let’s look at them. And let’s look at what are the effects of those different goals on the children, where would the difficulties be for them. And often parents can see that actually there’s not. And I say things like, when my children used to go to their grandparents’ house, my mother-in-law would let the children have lollies before dinner, but my children never asked me for lollies for dinner. So, children can actually navigate those spaces, if they understand the differences. And if there’s not criticism and belittling of those differences to them.

So, often I will help the parents accept the differences, but talk to them about when it will affect the children, what do you want to do. How do you want to manage that space. As if one parent doesn’t make them go to bed, but then when they come home and they’re so tired they can’t even think or function, is that okay for you to have those different ideas about parenting or goals for what they want. So, it’s kind of reality checking, what is it about those different goals that you think each of you want to instigate, but how are you going to navigate when there’s difficulties for your children.

CHRIS DOLMAN: Amanda, I was just wondering for you, did you have some reflections around that, differences between parents around goals for their kids, and what approaches from your perspective, practitioners can be taking, that can be supportive of parents in that situation?

AMANDA PETERS: It is absolutely, it can be really hard. Because sometimes you really feel like you’re right. Like in my experience, I felt like “You know what, I’m right. My goals for the kids are right. Or my values are right, yours are maybe not so right.” But I guess we really took the approach of, well giving the children a voice. So, what did they want to do, what did they think as well. But you had to kind of compromise as well, so there is at least a common ground. So, “Please don’t let them stay up past this late.”

And it can be really hard, because particularly if the other parent isn't having them all the time, or only has limited time with them, they don’t want to be like the police parent, they want to be the fun parent. So, you have to also, as challenging as it can be, to try and put yourself in that other parent’s role. They’ve got limited time with them, they don’t want to be the bad guy. And so, acknowledging that and saying, “I know that you have limited time, and I know that you don’t want to come across as the bad parent, or the disciplining parent.

So, if you let them stay up late, can you just make sure you have them into bed at this time, or otherwise it too much.” Or send them a little video or a photo of the next day and go, “This is what happens when you put them to bed late.” And you’re really taking it back to, we need to be on the same page with this because it’s the best outcome for the children.

CHRIS DOLMAN: Alesha for you, separation doesn’t happen in a vacuum does it, there are often other sources of stress or worries, other adversities that affect families, that affect parents. Whether that’s housing insecurity or other financial insecurity, those kind of factors. The question is, how do you support families to navigate through those circumstances as well?

ALESHA AKINTOYE: Like you said, Chris, there are so many different factors to keep in mind when parents are separating, and that’s around housing, around finances and other practical things that are impacting the family. And often now, because we are also in a rental crisis, we are seeing a lot of families who are moving back home with parents, so grandparents. So, there’s three generations under one roof, which again is another thing that parents have to navigate being a parent, while being a parent – being a child while being a parent.

So, I often talk to parents around these struggles, and I check in around how have they managed to cope during these really hard times, how have parents and children managed to hold onto their routines, or build new routines and new rituals during this time. Because that can really show parents that actually they are doing something well, so there is a connection happening amongst all of the upheaval that’s also happened.

And I might also ask into, so is it financial insecurity that’s happening now, how has that impacted the family, what has been the big changes that’s come along. So, really opening that conversation up for parents. And checking in around what they might have done to adapt around that, what things look different now, but what things are also going quite well. Because there’s often some things that are going well in families, despite there being a big shift and change.

So, I really support families around the positive things that are happening, and the connection that is still happening amongst all of these changes.

CHRIS DOLMAN: Amanda, it reminds me of some of the comments you made in the webinar itself about new kind of family traditions and rituals that can be instigated, despite some of these circumstances as well. That’s been something that you’ve drawn on at times.

AMANDA PETERS: Absolutely. So, generally when I first separated, I wanted to try and maintain everything like it was. But I quickly learned that it’s never going to be like it was, and I was putting so much pressure on myself trying to maintain that. And so, I had this little epiphany, if you will, of it was time to create new traditions. One of the things that comes to my mind was, so we used to put Christmas lights on the gutters and the roof and stuff like that. And now me getting on the roof to put Christmas lights up, not a hope. But what we do now is, we look at all the winners, and we all go – Christmas Eve is our new ritual where we will go around and look at all of the lights. And it’s a big thing that the kids love to get involved in, and much easier.

But changing those traditions, at first it was, you almost feel like a little bit of a loss, because yes, you’ve lost this person, this relationship, it could be family or friends that are associated with them. And then it’s celebrations and moments and stuff as well. Then there’s also the flipside of that, of creating new traditions and new relationships and things like that. But it’s the way that you want to do it that’s easier for you.

And sometimes that can be a bit of a blessing as well, because those traditions that you might have had, could have been quite hard, or something that you didn’t particularly enjoy. But now it’s a new chapter, if you will, in this book where you can write, to do it how you want to do it. And it doesn’t have to be hard. We can make it easier for ourselves. But rethinking and challenging our thinking around some of those things.

CHRIS DOLMAN: It reminds me of the book metaphor that Alesha talked about in the webinar as well, the chapters that are ahead kind of thing, and the traditions and rituals that can be a part of those chapters as well. So great, thanks Amanda for that.

CERI BRUCE: I often remind the parents that everything in life changes. Your children will have different teachers, different jobs, different friends. So, helping them understand that part of their job is increasing their skills to manage those differences. Or manage the external stuff, or create the new rituals, really, really does empower them to see themselves not as taking away from that space, but adding to their children’s future.

CHRIS DOLMAN: Great, thanks Ceri. Okay folks, I think we’ll finish there for now. So, again, thank you Ceri, thank you Alesha and Amanda for your contributions. And thanks everyone for tuning in. We’ll see you next time. Thank you.

Related resources

Related resources


Alesha Akintoye, Family Law Counsellor at Relationships Australia.

Alesha Akintoye holds a MSc in Psychology, her current role is Family Law Counsellor at Relationships Australia. Alesha offers comprehensive support to families, children, couples, and individuals. She supports families post-separation, often working with families who are experiencing high parental conflict. Alesha provides insights into how children’s mental health can be affected by high parental conflict. In her role Alesha focuses on empowering parents to recognize their own resilience and the significance of their relationship with their children following separation. Alesha practices with a trauma-informed lens and child-focused perspective. Alesha co-facilitates family therapy clinics, creating a safe space for families to engage in conversations about challenging subjects while receiving support.

Ceri Bruce, senior practitioner in the Family Dispute Resolution program with Centacare Adelaide.

Ceri Bruce is a senior practitioner in the Family Dispute Resolution program with Centacare Adelaide with over 12 years’ experience. She supports couples who have separated to create a good plan for the care of their children or to assist them to separate their financial ties according to the Family Law Act. She has a background in psychology and counselling and works as an educator in the community services area, facilitating workshops in life skills and communication. She also works as a child consultant for the Family Dispute Resolution program to include children’s voices in a way that assists their parents hear how they need to be supported when they have two homes. Her passion is supporting families both during and after separation and ensuring that children are not forgotten during the turmoil of change.

Amanda Peter, busy mum of two, has worked for over twenty years in various early childhood services and has a keen interest in supporting the mental health of children.

Amanda is a busy mum to 2 children aged 12 and 15 years old. She has worked for over 20 years in various early childhood services and has a keen interest in supporting the mental health of children. From her personal and professional experience, Amanda has a good understanding of how health and social services can assist with supporting the social and emotional wellbeing of children, parents, families and communities. 


Chris Dolman, Senior Practice Development Officer, Emerging Minds

Chris Dolman is a social worker who has been working for the past 15 years with individuals, couples and families facing a broad range of concerns in their lives and relationships. Chris currently works with Emerging Minds and the National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health, as well as a narrative therapist with Country Health SA, providing consultations via video link to people living in rural and remote South Australia. Previously Chris has worked as a counsellor, supervisor and manager in a family and relationships counselling service with Uniting Communities with a particular focus around responding to family violence and the effects of childhood sexual abuse. He holds a Master of Narrative Therapy and Community Work and is a member of the Dulwich Centre Teaching Faculty.