PARENTS

The Semi-Detached Parent: Self-Help Books And The 5 Cs

25/10/2011 08:17 | Updated 22 May 2015
Can self-help books make divorce and separation easier to cope with?PA

I do love a self-help book. Not because I read them from cover to cover, gulping down the advice and acting on it, but because they make me explore ideas. Mull over stuff I'd usually dismiss as pop-psych clap-trap. Even if they are complete rubbish (and let's be fair, a lot of them are: anything involving feathers or angels for example is more likely to rile me than relax me into a new way of thinking) I can generally take something useful from them.

I have just got my mitts on a book called Parenting Plans for Families after Divorce. It's a 150 page non-scary looking softback by an American family mediation expert, Joan McWilliams (a self-help book has to look non-scary: anything hardback and small of font immediately puts me off. It reminds me of school and lectures. Self-help needs a friendly approach: floppy covers and bold fonts make you feel less told off, more supported, IMO).

The book promises to arm divorced (and I presume separated) families with the tools they need to 'grow through the turbulence a break up often brings'.

To do this, Joan McWilliams says you need to work with the Five Cs. Sadly, they are not the five Cs I tend to turn to when dealing with the trials and tribulations of my family life: chocolate, Chianti, computer time, cheese, crap telly). Forget the wine, junk food and back-to-back TOWIE fix, instead McWilliams asks you to:

Commit to your child

Compartmentalize your anger

Communicate with the other parent

Consider the ideas of your child

Change your approach to conflict

Three of those Cs are the things that continue to cause the biggest disruption and problems to our 'family' life: compartmentalizing anger. I can't. There is only one compartment for my anger: it brews and stews in my head and eventually vocalizes itself and flies out of my mouth (and anger doesn't cover it. I spend most of my time consumed by burning red rage).

Communicating with the other parent – again, seemingly impossible, and ultimately leads to me being consumed by C no. two, anger: no matter HOW well it starts off, every convo ends in a row.

Changing your approach conflict: which, given the two Cs above, is hard, verging on insurmountable – I find it difficult to take the 'step back, say nothing, be the bigger person' approach that mediators and the like tend to suggest. My personality does not allow me to say nothing when I feel I am repeatedly being dealt a very pooey stick.

But I must persevere - those three Cs are just on the inside cover! To find out how to utilise them I have to get through such chapters as 'avoiding hurting our children' (gulp), 'writing a parenting plan' (now that DOES sound like a good idea) 'how will our children spend time with each of their parents' (this is the Big Issue in our situation: I would re-name this chapter 'how to stop me feeling like the person who does all the parenting of said child, before he goes off to do the fun stuff with his father...'

But it's the section entitled Things That Are Guaranteed to Make You Crazy that I am most looking forward to reading - hopefully the subtext to that is 'and how to put a stop to them.'

I will report back next week. Hopefully, in a calm and rational fashion, all five of the Cs taken on board and acted upon. Ahem.

Has a self-help book changed your life?

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