What is your name and what do you do?
Clare Christie from Harmony At Home is a parenting coach and professional family counsellor with well over a decade of experience helping parents to achieve confidence in parenting and empowering them to make the journey both enjoyable and rewarding. Clare's success comes from supporting parents to build strong, connected relationships and her understanding that there is no 'one size fits all' approach to parenting offers unique solutions. Clare has presented hundreds of workshops in private, public and corporate arenas and has appeared on the ABC Life Matters programme as a parenting expert.
How long have you been separated for?
I separated from my partner in November 2000
How many children do you have?
How old are your children?
Was the decision to separate a mutual decision between you and your ex?
I made the decision to separate after a period of attempting to facilitate change. My ex wasn't happy about the separation and felt that I had given up too soon. He also expressed that if we had been married, he feels I would have worked harder to stay around.
Did you have to get lawyers involved following your separation or were you able to work everything out between you?
We were able to work things out without involving the legal system. I think that this probably occurred because there weren't many finances involved in settling things and I was conciliatory when it came to making arrangements for our son.
Looking back on your separation would you do anything differently?
It was a difficult time and there were moments when I felt like a zombie! At the front of my mind was always the need to first consider our son and ensuring that his needs were met. I have occasionally had thoughts that perhaps we could have tried harder to reconcile. Seeking out different counsellors may have been useful as the counsellor I chose created more friction. Looking back I think that I had no choice but to leave and it has proven to be the right decision.
Did the separation have any significant impact/s on your children?
Harry was only 2 when we split up. The split itself didn't appear to be traumatic for him as I was his primary carer and his Dad worked long hours. What has had the impact is his ongoing fractured relationship with his Dad who has often let him down or reacted badly out of sensitivity and emotional outbursts.
Did the separation have any impact on your relationship with your children at the time? If so how?
I had a realisation at some point that I had probably 'interfered' too much in the relationship between my son and his Dad. I was over protective because of my own experience with an alcoholic father and didn't allow their relationship to fully develop as it might have. I can never be sure of this because his Dad is irresponsible at times and erratic so I did my best and I think that his Dad also tried his hardest but floundered a lot. My son has his own thoughts about his father as I was always very careful not to 'badmouth' him, I wanted him to form his own opinion. I'm mindful of the possibility that one day my Son may blame me for hindering his relationship, but he hasn't to date.
Did you ever engage the services of a Counsellor or Psychologist to help you or your children through the separation process? If so do you feel it was beneficial to you or your children?
I had counselling which was really beneficial, I also attended group therapy and this was excellent in providing support and 'normalising' what I was experiencing. When my son was struggling at school and had anger issues towards his Dad I took him to see both psychologists and counsellors. He wasn't very receptive at the time, this was from 7 - 14 intermittently. I feel he still has some issues to work through with his Dad but isn't receptive at this stage.
What is your relationship with your ex like now?
We have an amicable relationship. We have always tried to keep interactions respectful and honest - this was my goal as I felt it was ultimately best for Harry and any issues that we had needed to be aired privately or with a professional. I often don't understand how he can spend so much time away from his son but I let my son voice his own needs and opinions without influencing him.
What is your relationship with your children like now?
I have a fantastic relationship with my son. He's 16 and we've been on a roller coaster ride together. As a parent educator I'm so glad I have the communication skills and understanding of security and attachment to create a forum for him to voice his feelings and concerns. I'm proud of how sensitive, kind and caring he is and how thoughtful he can be.
If you could give one piece of advice to parents going through separation regarding their children what would it be?
Can I make it 2 pieces of advice? Your child is the product of both mother and father, they see themselves as a reflection of both. Regardless of your feelings and conflict with each other, allow your child to have a relationship (even through correspondence, Skype if not safe otherwise), with the other parent and don't 'badmouth' them or criticise them in front of your child. You are inadvertently badmouthing and criticising 50% of your child and they need to make sense of this connection for themselves. Second piece of advice is to learn how to communicate so that you are receptive and understanding of any thoughts, feelings and behaviours your child may exhibit following separation. It is a time of turmoil for them and they are relying on our understanding in order to move through the wave of emotions they may experience.