All parents and carers sometimes argue with one another, but sometimes, conflict between parents or carers can increase to a level that is not healthy for the family.
Conflict can also occur when parents and carers are managing stress or worries about financial issues, issues of trust and fidelity, parenting practices, or where there is stress or trauma in the family. This includes when parents or carers have decided to separate. Stress does not just make conflict more likely, but it also makes us less able to manage conflict. When we are stressed, we are less able to think objectively and see things from another person’s point of view, and more likely to react in automatic, poorly thought through ways.
Our clinical team has developed a therapeutic assessment model that aims to support families where there are concerns about the impact of parental conflict or parental communication breakdown on children. We have found that when working with children in this situation, involving the whole family has a much better outcome.
We have put together some tips for parents and carers experiencing conflict, and advice on reducing the impact of conflict between parents and carers on children.
- Contact and Residence Dispute Service
The Contact and Residence Disputes team is a multidisciplinary team with professional expertise including family therapy, social work, child and adult psychiatry and clinical psychology. The team have developed and delivers complex assessment and interventions for high conflict parents, primarily involved with the family courts. Our therapeutic assessment model that aims to support families where one or more of the below issues are relevant:
- disagreements or concerns about contact
- contact with one parent has not taken place for a long time
- disagreements about where a child should live
- significant concerns about the impact of ongoing parental acrimony and/ or legal proceedings on children
The team can be instructed by Court, directly by parents or carers, and/or children's services to make recommendations about contact and residence and to help families move forward to reduce the negative impact of separation and ongoing parental disputes on their children.
For privately paying families and third-party funders, the cost of this work is charged at £200.00 per hour per clinician. For parties in receipt of Legal Aid Agency (LAA) funding, we adhere to LAA rates. From the information you provide in the enquiry form, the team will be able to determine the most suitable package of work and we will be able to provide you with specific information including timescales and any associated costs for the work.
The therapeutic model we employ involves the presence of two therapists for many of the sessions. The rationale for this is that two people are better able to manage the complex dynamics and divides in families who are struggling around issues of contact between parents and children. While it is moderately more expensive in the short term, we have found that it leads to more effective and efficient change in the long term.
To make a referral to this service, please complete our online enquiry form: https://forms.office.com/r/vt3WA2t811.
We do operate on a first-come first-serve basis from when we receive formal Instruction of the work. In the first instance, however, we would ask for the enquiry form to be completed by both parties.
- No Kids in the Middle multi-family groups for high conflict separated parents and their children
This approach was developed in the Netherlands and has gained popularity across Europe as an effective intervention for high conflict separated parents and their children. We led the adaptation to a UK context, and, funded by the Department for Work and Pensions Reducing Parental Conflict Fund, supported the delivery and evaluation of an initial pilot phase of the UK Adaptation.
The intervention works by bringing together families where there is parental conflict in a time limited group where parents are supported to think about how they can understand and change their communication patterns and work together to support their children, and children are supported to share and make sense of their experiences with each other. Parents and children are seen in parallel, coming together at the beginning and the end of the group. Families tell us that it helps to work together with other families who are in a similar situation and to get support and ideas from each other.
Click here for further information.
We are in the fortunate position of being able to offer this group at a heavily subsidised rate and without charge to parents on benefits. Each parent will pay for the group separately and the cost will differ depending on your annual salary (see details on page 3 of this leaflet).
We are delighted that we can begin offering this programme to London based families once more weekly from 28 February 2023 - please note that the programme is paused over the Easter holidays. Contact Isabelle Greenway: email@example.com or Dhea Bengardi: firstname.lastname@example.org to register your interest.
In response to the pandemic, we have set up a different service, Family Ties Online, which is built on the same principles of the NKM group, but is adapted for families to access virtually on an individual basis.
- Family Ties Online Help (in collaboration with ChAPTRe)
This service is not running due to lack of funding. We know parental conflict disproportionately affects socially disadvantaged families, we are therefore dependent on funding and currently actively looking for funding opportunities.
Our specialist team have developed a three-day training course which provides frontline staff with a toolbox of skills that can be used to intervene and support families where there is parental conflict. Visit our training page for more information.
Developed in response to need during the Covid-19 Lockdowns, Family Ties Online Help is an online intervention for less complex families, who do meet threshold for intensive support, but whose needs are not met by parenting programmes or less intensive interventions. Family Ties Online is for parents who want to work on their communication, so that they reduce the impact of arguments or break downs in communication on their children. The programme takes place through video calls between parents and the therapist over 12 weeks. Each parent will have 10 sessions, sometimes together with their co-parent, and other times with the therapist one-to-one. Parents will also be asked to complete intersession tasks (e.g. watching video clips, working on parenting agreements) between sessions and to think about these with their support network. The children are involved only at the beginning, where their parents tell them about the help they are getting, and at the end, where parents tell their children about changes they have made.
Parental conflict may or may not be a result of/ exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, associated stressors, and lockdown conditions. The parents may be living under the same roof, or they may be separated. The intervention focuses on the child’s experience by working with their parents, and their parents support network to:
- Minimize the negative impact of conflict on their child(ren)
- Gain further understanding of their conflict and stressors (including understanding and managing different cultural expectations) in order to find more effective ways to co-parent
- Build coping strategies in order to help them manage the stress associated with conflict
- Reduce anxiety and loyalty conflicts for the child
- Protect the child against the possibility of their relationship with one parent breaking down as a result of parental conflict.
For more information click here.
Click here for the full evaluation report.
We do not charge for families for this service. We are currently seeking funding to support the delivery of this intervention and hope to be able to offer places again within the next few months.
To make a referral, please complete our online referral form: https://forms.office.com/r/BGzgMBq95s.
We accept referrals directly from parents, or through a third party such as healthcare professionals, social workers, or GPs (family doctors).
- Family Ties: Therapeutic assessment and treatment of high conflict separated parents and their children
This course provides participants with a framework for assessing and treating families where there is:
- Chronic conflict between separated parents primarily around the residency of and contact with their children.
- A long history of chronic litigation and allegations (by each parent) around the quality of parenting provided to the child and ‘parental alienation’
- A wish to intervene early in order to protect the child and reduce the involvement of the Family Court.
The harmful impact on children of involvement in such conflict is well documented however, traditional therapy has been found to be largely ineffective and professionals often find themselves stuck having exhausted existing resources with the family having made little or no progress.
The training is delivered by a specialist team who have developed an innovative conceptual framework drawing on mentalization, systemic and attachment based approaches and is based on the book they have recently published, High conflict parenting post separation: The making and breaking of family ties by Eia Asen and Emma Morris.
- Training for frontline practitioners: Protecting Children from Parental Conflict
The specialist team at the Anna Freud Centre have developed a three-day training course which provides frontline staff with a toolbox of skills that can be used to intervene and support families where there is parental conflict. The training covers how to:
- Use psychoeducation with parents in conflict and their social network (including access to a series short online videos)
- Keep the child at the forefront by identifying and monitoring child centred goals with the parents
- Help parents and their networks recognise their ‘triggers’ and develop coping strategies so that they regulate and manage conflict better
- Help parents and their networks recognise and change problematic communication patterns
- Help parents and the child’s network move away from a blaming narrative so that they can support a child to have a good relationship with both their parents
- Help parents make and experiment with written parenting agreements
- Develop reflective practice when supporting parents in conflict, including managing the emotional impact of working with parental conflict and improving cultural reflexivity
The course is delivered using the framework of our ‘Family Ties Online Help’ intervention. This is a semi-structured, manualised 10 session treatment package for parents in conflict that can be delivered online or in person. However, the intervention does not have to be delivered in its entirety. Practitioners can pick and choose any component of the treatment package based on their role and the families need.
A treatment guide and access to short videos for parents will be provided along with teaching slides for this training at part of this course.
The course itself will involve a combination of didactic teaching and interactive role play and case discussion in order to develop practitioner’s skills.