Understanding the stages of loss… “Whatever the situation, parents and children are likely to experience the whole range of emotions in the space of 10 minutes!”

Children whose parents have recently separated can show a range of behaviours related to the loss they are experiencing following their parents’ separation. They can be clingy, upset or aggressive. Their parents may also be experiencing many emotions and be short tempered, aggressive or may appear to be difficult or overreacting to the situation. Loss has an impact on children as well as parents. Although children experience loss, they may not understand or recognise it.

The stages of loss are: denial; anger; bargaining; depression and acceptance and form what is known as ‘The Loss Cycle’. Elizabeth Coe (NACCC’s CEO) is encouraging contact centres to use the ‘loss cycle’ with parents when they come for their first visit to prepare for the first contact session. “Do your parents know about ‘The Loss Cycle’? Why not use it at your pre-visit? Explain to families that they will not necessarily experience the stages of loss in the order shown and they might visit each stage more than once. They might sometimes feel that they are taking one step forward and two steps back…”

Loss cycle diagram © Cafcass 2015  (Adapted from Kubler-Ross 1969) (SPIP booklet page 40, used with permission). The Loss Cycle is part of the resources that can be found in the Separated Parents Information Programme Booklet (see below)

“We’ve not been doing what’s best for our child – we need to sort this out!” Separated Parents Information Programme success story

Hazel Hedley and Paul Hedley of Impact Family Services presented an excellent workshop at our conference on the fantastic impact of the Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP). Paul helps to deliver the SPIP in South Shields and shared a story about a dad who had come along to a session ‘over the moon’. The dad explained that 3 days ago his ex had rung him as soon as she had completed her SPIP insisting they get together to sort contact arrangements out for their daughter. She’d said “we’ve not been doing what’s best for our child – we need to sort this out!” The parents met that evening and completed 90% of the parenting plan between them and he had seen his daughter twice in those 3 days… There had been no contact between this daughter and dad for 9 months with only abusive texts being sent between parents, but the SPIP had turned this around.Parents may be interested in attending an ‘out of court’ SPIP course (a list of providers running SPIP across England is available on the Cafcass website). This comes at a cost of £150pp in most areas and in general is felt to be good value for money. 

So what’s in the FREE SPIP Handbook?

The SPIP Handbook is primarily used as a tool for parents enrolled on a SPIP course but is free to download and may help you and your volunteers develop an understanding of the impact of separation on the behaviour of children and their family. Elizabeth Coe, NACCC’s CEO has recommended the Separated Parents Information Programme Handbook to NACCC’s accredited child contact centres:  “This is packed full of great resources that can not only help you and your volunteers dealing with these behaviours. Do take a look and see how it can help at your centre…. The handbook explores the following issues regarding children, communication, and emotions (in parents and their children):

  • Parenting questionnaire
  • What children need?
  • What children don’t need
  • Talking to your children
  • Listening to your children after separation
  • Typical reactions of children and young people
  • How children react to separation and how to help them
  • Your parenting separation – communication (Exercise)
  • Having difficult conversations
  • Tips for contact
  • New partners
  • Domestic abuse
  • The Loss Cycle (see above)
  • ‘Taking care of yourself’ & Support Network (Exercise)
  • Your children’s friends and family. (Exercise)
  • Counselling,
  • Family Mediation

To reiterate the previous issue of Contact Matters (see Contact Matters, Spring issue, pages 2-3), NACCC would recommend that the Parenting Plan is the main resource for child contact centres to use with parents. Many centres are finding that this a helpful resource to use with parents and have ordered free copies direct from Cafcass. However, you may find that some material in the SPIP handbook is useful to raise awareness amongst your staff and volunteers and in some cases may be useful to use alongside the parenting plan and your other paperwork.

How do I get a copy of the SPIP booklet?

More info on this link or see download below www.cafcass.gov.uk/grown-ups/separated-parents-information-programme-(spip)

How do I order the Parenting Plan to use at our centre?

Download or order free from Cafcass: www.cafcass.gov.uk/grown-ups/parenting-plan

To download the documents please click on the Adobe Reader icon below. If you do not have the correct software installed then you can download free viewers. ( PDF Reader )

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