Sunday, 5 February 2012

My advice to parents, who through no fault of their own, are restricted from seeing their children.

Many parents miss their children after being away from them for a short period of time. Whether it’s due to parents holidaying on their own, children going away on a school camp, or the sense that something is missing once your adult children have moved out of home.

Well imagine being in the situation where you are restricted from seeing your children. Not because of your wrong doings, but due to your child’s other parent using the child as a pawn in selfish games. This is the situation a growing number of Australians find themselves in.

While the courts recognise equal and shared parenting, it remains unfortunate that without court intervention this situation is typified by the fathers being those who are restricted. This isn’t an anti-female statement; it’s fact.

There are a lot of good fathers out there who simply want to see their children and be a part of their lives. Yet in a growing number of cases the mother restricts this and to be quite honest there is no excuse for it.

This is the situation I am in and I know I am not alone. It is by far one of life’s more difficult and stressful situations to be in. Whilst I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, if you manage to get through it, it can prove to be a huge life building experience.

I only knew my ex for a very short time and we split up early into her pregnancy.

After we split, I was given the advice from a very good and wise friend to simply cut ties with her. I was told I am still only young and have plenty of time to find a girl who deserves me to start a family with.

Whilst many people choose to simply walk away, this is not something I could do. There is always the chance of one day being asked the question “Dad, why weren’t you around when I was younger?”

This simple but important question is one you may be faced with. Just thinking of being asked this question, and focusing on what the answer will be, has proved useful in getting through this. It has helped me focus on my son’s best interests, rather than what I want, and ultimately his best interests are of the upmost importance.

The excuse of “Ask your mother” isn’t a good enough reply either. Remember that your child has been brought up by someone who has denied you the simple liberty of seeing them: and that person is hardly going to be singing your praise and admitting to their own faults.

Document everything. Not only is it important if you decide to go to court, but it will all be there to show your child should they ask of you the question above. When your child sees how much effort you’ve put in trying to have contact with them, you will reap the rewards.

Many child psychologists I’ve spoken to have explained the importance of children needing to know their parents care about them. If your child can see you care about them, they will be more accepting to build that relationship with you, rather than if you replied with “Well I couldn’t be bothered fighting to see you”.

Rarely these situations change overnight, so come to accept this and strap yourself in for the ride. Understand that it will be a long and stressful haul. Being naïve and thinking such an undertaking will be a walk in the park can only lead to a severe personal demise. Think and focus on the long term goal.

Early on, this situation of being denied access to my son, took me to some of the very lowest and darkest places of my life. It got to a point where I was trying my hardest to see my child, however nothing I did worked. Having been involved with far too many people who have been affected by suicide, I walked into my local hospital very distraught and struggling to get out the words “I need to talk to someone”.

There is no shame in seeking help and talking to people. I only had two sessions speaking with a professional and the simple feeling of getting everything off my chest helped. A problem shared is a problem halved.

Whilst some may think that a majority of society operates by the mentality that “Men can’t have problems”, this isn’t the case. No one is going to think any less of you if you speak to them about how you are feeling. Bottling things up will not work. It will end up eating you alive.

There are many men’s groups around to speak with and please go in with an open mind. Be aware however of some support groups who exude an “Us Vs Them” mentality. These are the types you want to stay away from. It should be about both parents working together for the best interests of the child, not about women versus men.

Find a hobby to take your mind off things. Whether it’s joining the local sports club, seeing your friends more often or catching up with those you haven’t seen in awhile, or even taking up origami, the ability to learn to relax is one that will prove useful.

Learn to laugh at the situation. This might sound odd but honestly how ridiculous is the situation of being restricted from seeing your child! If you start to feel down, just think about it for a minute, know within yourself you are doing everything right, and laugh.

Every situation in life is a mindset. The brain is a very powerful tool and once you have learnt to master it you can achieve and conquer any situation. Whilst it is hard to do at times, if you can learn to control your mindset and outlook, you will feel a lot better for it.

Educate yourself. If you haven’t been in this situation before you may not know your full legal rights and entitlements. You will benefit from putting in the research should you decide to go to court and represent yourself. The internet can prove to be a huge resource for information and there are also free telephone advice lines.

It also pays to sit down for a discussion with a lawyer specialising in family law. I am very pro self representation, mainly because of the extravagant amounts being charged if you decide to be represented in court by a lawyer, yet picking the brains of a professional does comes in handy.

However, one lawyer I went to see early on was late with the appointment, only spoke to me for twenty minutes, dodged the questions I asked, ended up telling me nothing I didn’t already know and sent me a bill for over $200! So, ask around before going to see a lawyer and only go on referrals from others.

Anyway, what parent thinks that it’s their right to tell an innocent child that – No, you can’t see your father/mother/aunty/uncle/grandparents etc. This is where the best interests of a child get pushed aside and the deciding parent’s selfishness takes the number one spot. Let’s remember that children are human beings with feelings and emotions, not possessions. I think some parents forget that.

One of the final points I would like to make is realise that you can only control your own actions. No matter how much people would like to inject some sense into those parents who restrict access, the only one who can change is the person in question. Just as the only person that can control your actions is yourself. You can choose to change others, or you can choose to change yourself. You will find the latter is a hell of a lot easier. Remember, it’s all about the mindset. Control your own actions and know within yourself you are doing the right thing.

As society continues to allow these morally corrupt parents to continue restricting access, we will only see more public protests. Whilst I don’t condone illegal behaviour, it’s an issue that could certainly use more publicity.

Do we need the Federal Government to change legislation in order to nanny people in how to be good parents? Or is it possible that as a society can we learn to put the children’s best interests before our own thoughts of petty personal gain?