Lets make a stand!

Lets make a stand! By Lee-Anne Van Den Broek

Let’s make a stand against domestic abuse and the long-lasting impact on those faced with destructive relationships. Many people question why women don’t leave their abusive partner, but those that live in, or have lived in this world, understand it’s detrimental impact. There are millions of reasons women stay, and not generally because they want to.

Many victims of domestic abuse that leave, are faced with hardship because during the course of their relationship, they have been stripped of all resources. Immediate support for those wanting to leave is not always readily available, and many have children making the whole situation more complex.

So, while we stand against the abusers, let’s support those struggling with domestic abuse and show them empathy and understanding, with no judgements. Many women are kept from family and friends and become isolated over time, making reaching out for help even more complicated. Just knowing we are there if needed, may be all the security these women need to help them regain personal strength. No questions asked, just be there.

Van Den Broek, L. (2017). Let’s make a stand! www.youcounsellingforwomen.com

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“A truth to be accepted”

“A truth to be accepted” By Lee-Anne Van Den Broek

At times accepting the truth of a situation is hard, we tend to procrastinate rather than accept something or someone, that we are uncomfortable with, but overtime the weight becomes too heavy to bare and acceptance is all that’s left.

I feel it is one of the hardest hurdles to cross, but once done, it allows you to turn the page and see what the next one brings. With acceptance comes growth, and from growth we can learn to love ourselves once more.

We can stand back, smile and say, hey I did this! This sets the foundation for personal freedom, something each of us are more than entitled too and so often robbed of.

Van Den Broek, L. (2017). [blog]. “A truth to be accepted.” www.youcounsellingforwomen.com

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Domestic Abuse – Early Warning Signs

Domestic Abuse – Early Warning Signs, By Lee-Anne Van Den Broek

People that abuse others are masters of manipulation, and generally do not want their abusive behaviours displayed for all to see. The mask worn by these people ‘sucks you in’, they feel so right in the beginning!

Behind that mask lies ugliness that has no boundaries, and does not care about yours.
Relationships don’t become abusive, they always have been abusive, but the tactics used are less severe in the beginning of the relationship.

So, what are the early signs that a person may be setting you up for abuse? Strong signs of an abusive (controlling) disposition might be apparent even when the person is ‘being nice.’

Controlling disposition in early days might include:
- Flattering (but a little overboard).
- Planning fun outings or getaways where you feel a sense of obligation to look forward to, or enjoy their plans.
- You may be kept busy so that your usual activities can’t be pursued.
- He may assume levels of intimacy that you don’t feel.
- Gifts and other nice things are given but there is a strong pressure to accept and like his gifts.
- Needing constant contact (calls, texts, insisting on accompanying you to all appointments and interviews, visiting your place of employment etc.).
- Jealousy without reason (this is not love, this is angry attachment for all women expressing itself).
- Pressure for early commitment (desire to marry, move in together, buy property together, or have a child). The abuser may assume or insist commitment exists even when it does not. This is evidence of a desire for complete and total control.
- Blaming everything external for his feelings, life situation, disturbing actions toward other people, particularly previous partners as this is closely linked to abusive behaviours.
- Too good to be true and claims of grandiose can be a warning.
- Name calling (especially in fields of your interest).
- He shows a strong and manipulative interest in managing impressions on other people-if he is doing this to them, he is doing it to you.
- Isolating can be a gradual process, but can also show up at lightning speed when someone expresses doubts or a critical view of him.
- Suggestions of people being a bad influence on you.
- Frequent talks and argument about trust and betrayal. This indicates the abuser believes others are not doing what he wants them to, and this is a crime. This is the beginning of justification of abuse.
- Ingratiating manner when he wants something. Friendliness is common when requesting something, but ingratiating is not sincere and overdone by friendliness. This is a will to get what he wants at all costs.
- Claiming previous partners cheated on him. While this might be true, it is likely to be his imagination rising from pathological jealousy.
- Secretiveness. Next to brute forces, the second most effective building block of power is to know what someone else doesn’t. Secretiveness in relationships, is an attempt to create the feeling, or reality of power by compartmentalisation, a mild state of disassociation.
- Showing up unannounced or uninvited. This is to keep you off balance. It is also a sign of pathological jealousy and an act of stalking.
- He has few or no male friends.
- He has difficulty cooperating with others.
- Mood swings (Jekyll and Hyde behaviours).
- He has to be right. This is an effort by the abuser to make what he wants into something more, he feels it is something others must give him.

While some of these behaviours may be difficult to detect, if you do observe any potential warning signs, please take heed.
The abuse within unhealthy relationships increases over time. Being in an abusive relationship will eventually suck you dry, in every aspect. It will damage you until you are questioning your own sanity, yet you were never to blame for any of it, your abuser was.

Van Den Broek, L. (2017). [blog]. Domestic Abuse – Early Warning Signs. www.youcounsellingforwomen.com
Samsel, M. (2013). [article]. WARNING SIGNS: Abuse and Relationships. Retrieved 16.2.2017 from: https://www.abuseandrelationships.org/index.html

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STOP the battle in my mind!

STOP the battle in my mind! By Lee-Anne Van Den Broek

Anxiety is something that we all experience in our lives, and it can indeed be healthy. It can be helpful by keeping us alert and focused, and is a natural bodily response to stress or danger.
However, some people live with high levels of anxiety that cause irrational and excessive fear and worry, interfering with their day-to-day lives. Anxiety on these levels creates a constant and overwhelming sense of unease, and can be a sign of an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are serious medical conditions that are characterised by excessive and persistent worry, which are the primary sources of anxiety.

Anxiety disorders can make a person’s life hell and thus interfere with the person’s ability to carry out, or take pleasure in day-to-day life. Often anxiety disorders bring with them depression, increasing the challenges for people living with these conditions. People living with anxiety disorders are often misunderstood, people question their inability to overcome anxiety attacks and bouts of depression, assuming that all anxiety is the same as they have experienced. This is not the case!

Many people that have an anxiety disorder have a genetic vulnerability to developing the condition. Personality can also play a part in the way that a person responds to stressful life events, which may trigger the condition or increase its impact. For a person living with an anxiety disorder, distress is felt a lot of the time, even if there is no obvious reason. An anxiety attack for these individuals can be so severe it is immobilising.

A person living with an anxiety disorder may live with some or all the following:
Persistent, excessive or unrealistic worries
Compulsions and obsessions which they can’t control
Intense and excessive worry about social situations
Panic attacks
An intense, irrational fear of everyday objects and situations

Other symptoms of anxiety include:
A pounding heart
Difficulty breathing
Upset stomach
Choking sensation
Muscle tension
Feeling faint
The shakes

Anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders in Australia, with one in four people likely to experience some or all the above symptoms at some point in their lives.
So, the next time you are with a person experiencing anxiety, please don’t jump to the conclusion that they can move past their feelings and racing thoughts just because you can. Life for these individuals is a battle within their own mind each day of their lives, and the best they can do is learn to manage the condition the best that they can. Please be understanding of their condition and approach them with empathy and understanding, not assumptions and judgements.

Anxiety disorders are generally treated with a combination of medication and therapy. Therapies used must be tailored to suit each individual and their symptoms and concerns, because anxiety disorders differ greatly and should not be treated the same. Each person is unique and manages their condition differently, and should always be sure their therapist is working with their experience of anxiety on a personalised level.

Van Den Broek, L. (2017). [blog]. STOP the battle in my mind. www.youcounsellingforwomen.com
Sane Australia. (2017). https://www.sane.org/mental-health-and-illness/facts-and-guides/anxiety-disorder

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Coercive control

Coercive control, By Lee-Anne Van Den Broek

There are many tactics used by those that abuse others.

Today I would like to briefly discuss coercive control and the impact it has on those living with, or surviving from domestic abuse. Coercion refers to one giving in and complying with what their abusive partner wants, knowing that there will be no peace or stability unless he does get what he wants. This is particularly so for women with children, as they will take all measures to keep their home as ‘normal’ as possible.

Coercive control is used alongside many other tactics such as isolation, mind-games, degradation, and the regulation of the ones day-to-day life. There may be control over what one wears, social restrictions, monitoring of phone calls, and showing up unannounced to your place of employment, these are among the many tactics used. The perpetrator of abuse, creates a world by which one is constantly monitored and criticised. Everything the person does is checked on, and they are forced to live in an unpredictable, ever changing world, with an ever-changing rule book.

The one living with, or surviving domestic abuse, understands that any situation can escalate or remain tense until they give in. Sadly, this even applies to sex. Many women give their abuser rights to their body, again, to keep the peace and stability within the home. The affects however, are the same emotional responses as anyone experiencing rape. Abusers love to use unresolved conflict and disruption as a punishment, when one does not give him what he wants.

Part of coercive control is pressure-release tactic, this is used as a means of psychological control. For example, any person living with domestic abuse, lives with pressure and discomfort, if the discomfort or pressure is removed, suddenly there is a feeling of relief, and sometimes even feelings of gratitude toward their abuser. Perpetrators of domestic abuse, often act out mood swings, they may display intense coercive behaviour and then suddenly snap into civil behaviour, which can also give the person living with domestic abuse, yet more feelings of gratitude toward their abuser. But this pressure-release never lasts long.

Control is ever present in abusive relationships, they are traps that limit people’s options. Abusive people learn quickly that threats to leave the relationship can be used as power, because threats to leave shift the focus from the abusive behaviour, to the one living with abuse and their behaviour-this is a fundamental abuse tactic. Women naturally take a strong interest in their relationships working, and can therefore be negatively affected by threats to leave. Using threats also silence the one living with abuse. Those living with, or surviving domestic abuse, will relate to being discouraged from all that she is and does, so that she never explores options outside the relationship.

Emotional abuse is more than momentary cruelty, it is directed at lowering the person’s self-esteem and power to do things on her behalf, and on behalf of her children. Discouragement comes from a paralysing quantity of bad feelings, and those living with domestic abuse eventually forget to take care of their own wellbeing. I urge those that have not lived under these conditions, to show understanding toward survivors and those living with domestic abuse. There are a million tactics used by perpetrators of abuse, many of these tactics rob those living with it of everything, including means by which to leave.

If someone you know is courageous enough to disclose they are being abused, please listen to them. Coercive control is just one tactic that is used and can be subtle, you may overlook it. Please remember, those that abuse others generally wear a deceitful mask, they don’t want you to know, often leaving the one living with abuse further damaged.

Van Den Broek, L. (2017). Coercive Control. www.youcounsellingforwomen.com
Samsel, M. (2013). Warning Signs-Abuse and relationships. Https://www.abuseandrelationships.org/index.html

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Pathological Jealousy – Crushes Souls

Pathological Jealousy – Crushes Souls, By Lee-Anne Van Den Broek

There are many cruel tactics used by perpetrators of abuse, one of the most damaging to those living under these conditions is pathological jealousy. While some level of jealousy within loving relationships is normal, and indeed an ancient instinct used to secure and protect a mate, it is very different from that of pathological jealousy. In healthy terms, jealousy refers to a fear of losing something we have with another person, whilst pathological jealousy means the person believes they own or possess the other person. This kind of jealousy destroys not just relationships, but the one living with its detrimental impact. Trust, intimacy, and connection are destroyed.

Pathological jealousy is one of the most dangerous aspects within abusive relationships, leaving those living under these conditions mentally, emotionally and physically drained, especially if they have remained in the abusive relationship for a long duration of time. One of the most frustrating parts of this abuse, is no matter how hard the person tries to reassure or appease her abuser, she won’t be believed, as these people simply do not trust no matter what is said or done.

In fact, these individuals look for reasons to be jealous, and inflict suffering on the devastated partner with whom was not inclined to be unfaithful in the first place. Most people that live with a pathologically jealous partner, are so tormented with isolation tactics, name-calling, interrogations and accusations, that the last thing on earth they want to pursue is sex with someone else – they would in most cases, prefer the opposite sex did not exist at all.

Pathological jealousy is truly a narcissistic trait, and any relationship with someone with narcissistic personality disorder will destroy you. People living with domestic abuse feel completely drained of energy and life-force, some days just doing their day-to-day activities near kills them because their soul is afraid and lifeless. It is a world of manipulation and control, where the one living with abuse is robbed of their power. Please be understanding of their situation, the last thing they need are judgements or people pressuring them to leave, it is not that simple.

Women living with abuse have very complicated lives, and those with children have more than themselves to protect. They are often robbed of every resource, and know that leaving could very well leave them standing with only the clothing on their back. Many ask why material possessions are so important, why don’t they just get out of there and then rebuild their lives. Imagine for a moment, working hard for the things you love, and having items left to you by beloved loved ones, and then leaving it all behind. Think of your children, all their treasured possessions and photographs, and just leaving it all behind.

Leaving an abusive relationship is no easy feat, not only are resources and support networks stripped, there is a good chance that the abuser will not leave their partner out of sight long enough to make the escape, and many do not want to inflict harm on others that may be willing to help, so they silently suffer alone in a world of torment. They need our love and support, never our judgements! Women living in this world need us to show them they are not alone, no matter how they chose to deal with their situation, so please, let’s offer that, and always be there when they reach out for our help.

Van Den Broek, L. (2017). [blog]. Pathological Jealousy – Crushes Souls. www.youcounsellingforwomen.com

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Breaking Free From a Destructive Relationship

Breaking Free From a Destructive Relationship

By Lee-Anne Van Den Broek

People stay in bad relationships for thousands of reasons. Sometimes they are afraid to be alone, or they are afraid of starting over. Sometimes they are afraid of what their partner will do, or that they will end up broke and hopeless. Often people assume the old saying “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t”

But, the truth is: life is precious and it is short.

Don’t waste a minute more of your time being in a relationship that is damaging or destructive.

The people we love are meant to lift us up, to make us our best selves, not to tear us down and leave us broken.

So if you are thinking about leaving, or preparing to leave, check out Counsellor Lee-Ann Van Den Broek’s advice below on breaking free from a destructive relationship.

And remember, it’s better to be by yourself and working on your own happiness, than to be with someone who makes you feel bad, scared or alone.

breaking out of a Destructive relationship

What is an abusive relationship?

Abuse comes in many forms, not just physical. An abusive relationship can include one, some or all of the below symptoms:

Physical abuse: If your partner is violent towards you, or threatens violence towards you. Physical abuse may also include the destruction of property or harming of pets.

Emotional abuse: This can take many forms and can include humiliation, yelling, insults, criticism, judgement, domination, control, shame, rejection, discounting someone’s opinions or value, threats, accusations, blame, unreasonable demands and expectations, emotional distancing and the ‘silent treatment’, emotional abandonment, neglect, bullying, and co-dependence.

Financial abuse: If your partner controls your finances, limits your access to funds and makes you financially dependent on them.

Social abuse: Happens when your partner limits your contact with family and friends. It can also happen when they insult you, or are cruel about you in front of other people. They may also try to control where you go, when you go and who you see.

For more information on the definition of an abusive relation visit Reachout.com.

Taking the first step

Leaving a destructive relationship is not easy. Often the person that you are leaving will place blame on you, and will try to get you to question your own feelings and judgement.

They will often make you think that your leaving will have serious consequences, and you may begin to minimise the seriousness of your situation.

Don’t underestimate your situation

Never underestimate the seriousness of your situation. If you are in an abusive relationship, you need to keep yourself (and your children) safe.

The hardest decision you will have to make is the initial break, from there you will find there is both social and financial support that you can access.

Breaking free

So how do you break free from a destructive relationship?

  1. The first step is realising the abuse is not your fault and that you are not to blame.
  2. The next is to realise you are not alone and there are measures that you can take to ensure your safety.

Getting away safely

Setting up a safety plan is useful and allows you the freedom to leave at the drop of a hat.

  • A safety plan might include having an emergency bag of belongings that you can leave with someone you trust.
  • Setting up a code word that lets your friends and family know when you feel unsafe. This way, if you feel worried about your safety, all you need to do is call someone that you have shared the word with, and speak that one word. It’s simple, quick and easy, and can have someone on their way to your place in no time at all.
  • Children can also be given the code word as a warning if a quick exit is needed.
  • Decide on the best exit from your home. This may be a window or a door, and always have a safe hiding place for your spare car key.
  • Always ensure you have emergency numbers programmed into your phone.
  • If you feel like you are in danger, speak to the police about your options.

You can find a detailed safety plan by visiting Relationships Australia.

Once you have decided to leave, you will need to work out where you will go to. You may want to stay with family or friends for a while, or you could get temporary accommodation at a shelter or a refuge.

Resources once you’ve broken free

There are a number of legal, financial and emotional resources available to you, both before and after you have left your relationship, these include:

Legal: Lawstuff – for information about your rights and the law as it applies to you.

Financial: Centrelink can provide crisis payments in times of distress. If you are financially dependent on your partner, they can also help you with payments until you find work.

Physical: If you have been hurt or injured by your partner, head to your local GP or the nearest hospital for immediate medical assistance.

Emotional: There are several fantastic support services which will help you access emotional and mental support, including:

Get support

Whether or not you feel it, there will be lingering effects from the abuse that you have suffered. You may feel guilty, scared or down on yourself.

For your wellbeing, it is essential that you seek out some counselling or therapy. It will help you sort through your emotions, get you into a better headspace, and ultimately help you to leave the past behind and walk into the bright new future that’s waiting for you.

The above emotional support services will be able to help you locate counselling services, or you may want to check out Open Colleges’ blog on How to pick a psychologist.

And please, always remember that you are not alone and help is always available.


Van Den Broek, L. (2016). [Article] Breaking Free From a Destructive Relationship. Open Colleges. Sydney, Australia.

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Therapy with Children after Separation (Post 1)

What tools, skills, ideas may be a useful to explore children’s experience of separation, conflict, living arrangements, and their relationships within their two-household family. It is important for children to be able to speak openly about their feelings about family separation; to speak about the feelings of loss, grief, anger and not have a parent react; therapy allows the child the space to be able to talk honesty about feelings so feedback can be given to parents to assist the parents to discontinue using child responses as part of the couple conflict.

  • A skilled therapist allows the child to have a ‘buffer’; which supports parents to start to separate child issues from couple issues.
  • To carry out successful child therapy consultations the therapist needs to be creative in the tools they bring to a therapy session; the use of drawings, pictures, sand play, play with specific aims (e.g. a selection of fierce animals), bear cards, shadow cards, 3 wishes, story completion, house drawings or pictures, imaginative dreams are some ideas a child therapist may use.
  • All tools, skills and ideas in child therapy are important; identifying how the child is presenting  is a real skill of the therapist; the therapist needs to be creative in offering them a medium they are comfortable with to tell their story and express their emotions.  Any play object that can be connected to the child story can be used well be a therapist.
  • E.g. when working with a 5 year old, the child had an obsession with possession of fierce animals; tigers, crocodiles etc. The child was encouraged to talk as one of these animals and answer questions from an animal voice explaining why the animal was very important to him. The information elicited was very insightful and as the mother was present and listening was ‘blown’ away by what she learnt about how her son was not coping with the couple’s conflict. Spontaneity and creativity of the child therapist is a skill; the room and resources in the room need to be extensive so the child can be encouraged to interact using many mediums; even some teenagers will happily use drama or a skit to be able to tell a story; which in fact is how they are really feeling about all the issues of separation from a child’s or young person’a point of view.
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Using Children as Weapons Responsible Style 3

Using Children as Weapons in Family Disputes - Copyrighted material written by Christina McMahon

 The Responsible Parent 

When you first meet they are often reserved, careful and systematic in how they approach life. You will feel extremely stable with a very responsible and trustworthy ‘anchor’ in your life.


What they can do in a crisis if unskilled? They can be either passive or aggressive depending on their second style. They are often pedantic, can close down emotionally and be considered cold, aloof and calculating. Their primary need is to stay in control of self and the situation. They fear losing emotional and practical control so they could be insensitive to the hurt or pain of the other parent and in some cases their own children.

How do they use children as weapons?

They are very capable and good planners so they plan their future. They spend time to make sure they have all the correct details and facts for a court case and they generally will be perfectly prepared. They control situations as they have analysed and planned responses long before the other person have thought out some possible repercussions.

With children they will have their hand on the pulse; knowing exactly all their rights. They can be inflexible around rights so they often use the child as a weapon to upset the other parent and demand their rights. If a child becomes upset with arrangements for access the Responsible style parent may not meet the child’s emotional needs. The Responsible parent could have suppressed feelings of inadequacy from the breakdown of the relationship; their reaction with their child can be seen to be insensitive and cold even if they really love their child; regaining a sense of control is what is so important for them to feel adequate once again. Their second style will determine if they can shift to a nurturing role or angry role. The child may have difficulty staying attached to this parent, they can feel shut out and not realise the parent emotions are often so controlled that this parent is not doing well. It not uncommon for older children to align more with the overtly emotional parent as they seem to need them more!

How does the ‘balanced’ parent help to break the pattern?

Make sure you receive professional help to move through your emotional issues.

Assist the other parent to feel in control through clarity of arrangements and keeping to agreed conditions and plans. They need to feel they have some control; if they feel out of control or inadequate or helpless their child could be hurt as a battle ‘rages’ over right and wrong; agreements; responsibilities; and even over routines and behaviour management issues. They respond cautiously to change and will be disorientated for a long period of time. If you choose to end the relationship and they feel rejected, they will feel inadequate and not perfect and this could mean they become over controlling. Speak to them quietly giving clear information about arrangements or write out arrangements in a listed manner. They find it hard to judge and criticise if you play everything by the “book”. If you are over emotional they will respond by building a case against you as being irrational or unstable. Give them evidence on the affect stress and family conflict has on children and how they need care, nurturing, love and reassurance and plenty of hugs and praise. Don’t talk at them; simply find the facts to give them!  (Training manual available:

The Ego Self www.conflictresolutionbooks.com.au )

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Using Children as Weapons – Adventurer Style 2

Using Children as Weapons in Family Disputes

The Adventurer Parent Copyright Material  Written by Christina McMahon

When you first meet they are often charming; sociable; exciting; enthusiastic and fun to be with it; this person makes life interesting and vibrant.

What do they do in a crisis if unskilled? They can be passive or aggressive, very manipulative and sometimes subtle. If highly educated can be cynical, sarcastic and very clever with words to make sure they are still the centre of attention. Females can use emotional drama to get their way and men can use emotional charm or distraction to get their way. (These are generalisations). Often have very close relationships with their children built on having fun and breaking routines, boundaries and behaviour expectations; seen as child like when with the child.

How do they use children as weapons?

Because they are the natural entertainers and charmers the relationship with their children is focussed on having fun. They are not always responsible to support suitable behaviour management boundaries or limits. They can manipulate their children; they are the fun and exciting parent who allows the child do things that the responsible parent will not allow. They are very persuasive through their ability to create relationship based on charm. They can use children as weapons by encouraging a child to see the other parent as the boring, over protective or too harsh parent; causing the parent who is trying to establish routines to be seen as the problem parent who does not know how to relax and enjoy themselves. If they have available money they could offer children treats; exciting trips; days out; latest expensive toys etc. They are buying the ‘love’ of the child. The other parent is wrong; not as good; boring; too strict; and stops the child from ‘playing’. One parent is irresponsible and the other could be over responsible! The child may end up supporting the breaking of parenting agreements to have fun with the irresponsible and fun parent.

So how does the ‘balanced’ parent help to break the pattern?

Make sure you get professional help to move through your emotional issues.

Meet the needs of the other parent where you can and it is reasonable, their needs are recognition and change. This parent really wants attention so they need to be ‘called’ on what they are doing; especially the manipulation. Not easy if you can’t do it in a way that deescalates the behaviour. This parent can change quickly when attention is received from another source; they could ‘forget’ their own child and become distracted. When they see their child again they will be totally charming even if they have simply disappeared from the child for a period of time. They don’t mean to hurt their child, their need for attention is great, they can blow hot and cold as a parent. When with the child; the child wants them to be with them, maybe more then with you. They will love their child however sometimes their personality needs unintentionally creates destructive situations for the child. When not with the child the responsible parent then has to pick up the pieces of the discarding of attention. This parent claims you’re the problem as they have fun with children. You need to use practical means to encourage this parent to be responsible. Not easy! Make sure you have fun times with your child in a framework that is responsible so they can see you can have fun and also be responsible. Help the child understand the other parent loves them but could always come and go because of who they. 

(Training manual available: The Ego Self www.conflictresolutionbooks.com.au )

Posted in Children, Divorce & Separation, News, Parenting, Relationships | 24 Comments