I met a male client today for a ‘walk and talk’ session. I started walk and talk as an alternative to sitting in my coaching room. As much as it is a safe and welcoming space, people are more likely to open up when they feel comfortable. My male clients generally opt for walk and talk as they can walk alongside me whilst discussing the problems they are facing in their relationship, separation or divorce instead of feeling that they are in a therapy room.

My client was struggling with not seeing his children as much as he did when he was part of a family unit. This is always a big problem with divorce when there are children involved. One person ends up being the resident parent (which is generally the woman) and the other person ends up seeing their children once or twice a week, unless they have agreed shared custody. He was missing them and feeling depressed. He had moved into a flat and would spend most evenings staring at 4 walls when he wasn’t working.

I explained to him that feeling of loss, guilt and loneliness were normal and it would take time to feel at home in his new flat and get to grips with not seeing his children. When I was going through my first marriage breakup, my daughter was only 2, she couldn’t understand why daddy was not coming home and would often cry, which would make me feel even more guilty. She started to sleep in my bed for comfort and took up residence on the other side of the bed, even when I moved into a new house until she decided one day that she was far too grown up to sleep with mummy. She was too young to verbalise how she was feeling and in some ways regressed. I reassured her (and so did her dad) that it wasn’t her fault and that we loved her no matter what. She is now 15 and a very independent and strong young women. She doesn’t remember me and her dad being together and finds it funny that we ever were in the first place! She sees her dad once or twice a week and has a great relationship with her step-mum and step brothers. Children who experience family breakdown develop strong resilience and often see having 2 homes, 2 birthdays and 2 Christmases as a bonus.

I talked to my client about reassuring his boys that he loved them and answering any questions that they had as truthfully as possible (depending on age, older children like this approach and will respect you more for it). I also suggested that he made his flat more homely by buying cushions, throws and putting up pictures/ photographs of his boys that would enable him to see his flat as his home and not just somewhere where he was staying. I suggested that he planned activities that he could do with his sons like swimming, bowling and the cinema so that they would look forward to visiting as well as normal things like cooking together and decorating their bedroom so that if started to feel like theirs.

We also discussed planning things to do when his sons were not there (which would be the majority of the time). I gave him the target of joining a social group or a gym and catching up with old friends. I found it very difficult when my daughter when to her dads for the first few months. I felt a little lost and would walk or swim just to keep my mind occupied. After a while, I began to see my childfree time as ‘my’ time, time to find out who I was and what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. As I always tell my clients “Life should not stop after divorce!”

#Divorce #separation #familyunit #children #movingforward #lifeafterdivorce #supportingchildrenafterdivorce