Douglas came to counselling because he couldn’t cope with not seeing his two sons more than once a week. His ex had tied everything up with a costly court battle and she was dictating the terms of Dad/kids access. Douglas was considering suicide.

Statistics suggest separated Australian men are up to six times more likely to suicide than separated women. Research conducted by Mensline has shown that there is a spill-over effect into their working lives with high absenteeism, conflict with their peers, inability to concentrate and the potential for industrial accidents. There is often a high use of drugs and alcohol as men struggle to cope with the loss of daily contact with their children and the loss of the relationship.

Dads can continue with their daily routine at work and it distracts them and keeps them from feeling their feelings. However, the level of stress increases when they have to deal with the (legal) system. There are support mechanisms for the wife and kids, but the blokes are expected to carry on, doing the provider thing. There is a need for an approach that recognises these blokes are, in reality, heart broken. The blokes are saying, “I feel as if I've failed at my job, my life and my marriage.''

They are less likely to seek help although they are able to talk to a friend, especially if they know someone who has gone through a separation. They should seek professional counseling if they are continually depressed, angry and bitter. Depression is a big one - especially if it goes on and on. Anger and bitterness is not good, but usually decreases over time. It all depends who stays in the family home though as that can be a constant reminder of the loss.

My advice to Douglas was to keep coming to counseling to get things off his chest and read a good book like mine - Fight-free Families (Finch, 2001). Exercise is the best way to defeat depression and burn up the adrenalin which floods the body when the ex thwarts the Dad from seeing the kids, so join a gym and get fit. Try to get quality time with the children as often as possible.

He asked should he communicate with his ex regardless of how bitter is the separation? I warned him that at first, the bitterness may provoke confrontations which are very painful for the children. In this case, get friends and family to be the go-betweens for communication or stick to just email. After a while, gradually introduce personal communication but only as long as it is civil. Do your best to cooperate and be flexible with child minding for the sake of the kids.

Parenting after separation

Separation and divorce are common phenomena in the community today, but still represent a major life stressor for the individuals involved. Approximately 43% of all marriages in Australia will end in divorce (ABS, 2000). Remarriage following divorce is common, but these marriages have the highest risk of divorce (ABS, 2000). In Australia, it is estimated that 50,000 children will experience the effects of separation and divorce each year (ABS, 2004). Approximately 50% of all divorces involve children under the age of 18 years (ABS, 2004). These figures are likely to be even higher when you consider the numbers of children in Australia born to people who are not actually married (cohabiting). Of all Australian families in 2003, 84% (4.6 million) were couple families and 14% (799,800) were one-parent families. Families with children made up 60% of all families (ABS 2003). To read the 'Position Statement prepared for The Australian Psychological Society', August, 2007 - click here.

Author's Bio: 

Dr Janet Hall

Dr. Janet Hall is a psychologist, hypnotherapist, sex therapist, author, professional speaker, trainer, and media consultant. Dr Jan has authored eight books on family and relationship issues and recorded 42 =Ds/MP3s, many use hypnosis. She founded the Richmond Hill PsychologyClinic

Jan consults regularly with print media and is a frequent guest on talk-back radio and current affairs shows. Jan has a unique ability to encourage people to clarify their situation and solve their own problems with both heart (trusting intuition and feelings) and head (with logical analysis and rational prioritization). She believes that people deserve to feel empowered and allow themselves to be the best they can for the good of all.