Do You Suffer from the BIG ‘G’ – of Guilt? Here are tips to ditch it!

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Posted by: Sue Atkins

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Show notes:

In this episode:

  • Can Your Child be Vaccinated If You Disagree?
  • Checklist: 10 Rules of Negotiating with Your Ex-Partner
  • Why Making Magic Memories with Grandparents Matters.
  • Sue Atkins in Conversation with Jo Watkins and Polly Crook – The ‘How People’- Happiness | Opportunities | Wellbeing

Listen to the Full Interview on The Parentverse

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Ex ‘s and Covid Injections

WITH COVID-19 vaccinations being offered to 12- to 15-yeard old’s, family solicitors from a leading UK law firm are anticipating a surge in divorced and separated parents disagreeing on vaccinating their children.

“This is something we are expecting and preparing for,” said Victoria Gethin, Head of Family Law at Stephensons. “As children in England become eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19 some parents and legal guardians may face a situation where one parent wants their child to be vaccinated, and the other does not.

“Increasingly this could occur with parents who are divorced and separated and where relationships are strained at the best of times, but it may also occur with married couples and others with parental responsibilities who have opposing views on the matter.”

There is also the added complication of a scenario where the child themselves and their parents disagree on whether or not to be vaccinated which could see the child overrule their parents.

Now Stephensons is offering families advice and guidance on how to avoid potential conflict and the options available should they disagree on vaccinating their children.

What is the current situation?

The rollout of the vaccine for all children aged 12 to 15 began in schools this week. The decision to offer one does of the Pfizer vaccine to this age group has been made for a number of reasons including reducing outbreaks of coronavirus in schools.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JVCI) had previously advised that some children aged 12 to 15 in England – including those that live with someone who is more likely to get infections, have a condition that means they are at high risk from COVID-19 or have a condition such as cerebral palsy – should be offered the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

However, the JVCI had assessed that the margin of health benefits from vaccination were too small to support universal vaccination of healthy 12 to 15-years-olds.

For children aged 12 to 15 to be vaccinated, consent will be required, and while the Pfizer vaccine has been found to be safe and effective by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), there is likely to be scenarios where parents don’t agree.

Can a child be vaccinated if their parents disagree?

Victoria explains: “In short, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals are advised by Public Health England [1] not to vaccinate a child unless both parents can agree to immunisation or there is a specific court approval that it is in the best interests of the child.

“If there is any evidence that the people with parental responsibility for the child disagree, then the vaccine should not be given until the dispute is resolved.”

What if parent and child disagree?

There are circumstances where a child under 16 can be deemed able to decide about their own medical treatment, this is known as Gillick competent. An assessment of whether a child is Gillick competent is based upon that child’s own individual circumstances including their age and their understanding.

The guidance provided by the NHS confirms that where a child is not considered to be competent, the consent for the vaccine must be provided by those with parental responsibility for the child.

If the child is assessed as having the competency to make the decision, then the guidance suggests that their parents should still be involved with the process.

What options do parents have?

If an agreement cannot be reached between those who share parental responsibility for a child, then one or both could apply to a court to decide.

A parent who wishes their child to be vaccinated, against the wishes of the other parent, will need to apply to the court for an order permitting the vaccination to be given without the consent of the other parent.

A court will base its decision on what is in the child’s best interest and the decision will be made on a case-by-case basis, specific to the circumstances of each child.

Victoria adds: “However, going to court should be seen as the last resort and I would strongly advise other options are considered before going down this route. Disagreeing parents could consider making a referral to a local mediation service for assistance.”

Has a court said anything on this?

A recent case looked at a dispute between parents on whether their child should be vaccinated in line with the NHS vaccination schedule. While this did not look at COVID-19 vaccination specifically, the court said that it is ‘very difficult to foresee a situation in which a vaccination against COVID-19 approved for use in children would not be endorsed by the court as being in a child’s best interests’.

Top five guidelines to parents:

  1. Speak to your child’s GP for more information about the risks and benefits of having the vaccine. If you have doubts about the accuracy of the information either you or the other parent has read on the internet or has heard, you should also check this with your GP.
  2. We would always encourage parents to try to reach an agreement between themselves. Explain your views to each other and remember throughout the conversation that your child’s best interests should be the main consideration.
  3. Mediation can often be a helpful way of resolving disputes. A mediator is an independent third party and they will be able to help both of you manage the conversation and try to reach an agreement.
  4. The court requires parents to have attended a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before making an application to the court. There are some exemptions to this (for example where there has been domestic abuse).
  5. Finally, going to court is a long and costly process. We would strongly recommend that you seek legal advice before making any application to the court to ensure that you have exhausted all other options.

Answer :

Coping with parent guilt

One emotion parents often experience is that of ‘mother’s guilt’, ‘mummy guilt’ or ‘parents’ guilt’.

Where does parent guilt come from?

Becoming a parent makes you realise just how dependent children are on their caregivers. As a parent, you feel utterly responsible for not only their safety, but also their happiness and wellbeing.  Your love for your child and desire to ensure they are content can lead to worry or fear that at times you are not good enough or doing enough for them.

Before I had children, I would feel guilty about something every once and a while, but since having children I haven’t stopped feeling guilty.

The expectations you place on yourself to put the needs of your child first and give them the perfect start to life can make it feel as though any decision that you make, that is for yourself,  is coming at the expense of your child’s needs.

You feel guilty for everything… guilty that you left your child with someone, guilty because you should have breastfed for longer, guilty because you went back to work. These were all times that I struggled with feelings of guilt in the first year.

At other times, guilt rises from any situation where you feel the  outcome wasn’t great. In these instances, what often escapes us is the fact that when it comes to parenting there’s not many win/win scenarios. Often there is no  “perfect” outcome or path forward.

I realised how crazy this all was when in the same day that I felt guilty for not cleaning the house whilst I spent time with my baby, I then felt guilty because I cleaned the house and did not spend time with my baby.  I couldn’t win – the guilt was there either way.

While guilt is natural – as we are constantly wanting to do the best for our children – it is not so helpful when it leads you to feel inadequate or harshly judge yourself.

How to cope with parents’ guilt

  1. Keep things in perspective

It is important to understand what it is that you are feeling guilty about and why you feel this way. Try to make sure you are keeping the expectations you place on yourself in perspective and realistic.

  1. Remember there is no one “right” way to do things

Too often parents place too much emphasis on doing everything, doing it all the “right” way, and/or doing it all perfectly. In reality though, there is usually not one right way to do something – and nobody’s perfect. Having perfection as your standard is setting yourself up to fail – and then feel guilty.

  1. Set your own personal standards

To take the pressure off, think hard about the standards you have for yourself, where they come from and if they are simply too high to be achievable.

To be realistic, your standards should come from within you and be personalised to you. Think about your strengths and your weaknesses, the parameters of your life and the nature of your child and then set your expectations for yourself accordingly.

  1. Stop comparing yourself to others – especially on social media

One of the hardest aspects of being a parent today is that points of comparison are everywhere, especially with the rise of social media. Try to avoid looking at and comparing yourself to what others are doing. People carefully curate what they want you to see and hear about their life – especially on social media and especially when it comes to parenthood.

When you look at what some other parent says they are doing and compare it to what you are actually doing, you are literally comparing their fiction to your reality. It’s not a fair or accurate comparison and it’s not how you measure yourself as a mother or what is best for your child.

  1. Remember life isn’t perfect

Just as it is important for you to accept that you are not perfect, so too is it important for your child to know and understand that their parent, and life more generally, is not perfect either. This will make it easier for them to realise and accept their own imperfections one day. Plus, the adjustments your child will have to make to adapt to your imperfections and our imperfect world can be important for their own physical and emotional development as well as their resilience.

  1. Practice self-compassion

Finally, try to remember that the reason you feel guilty is because you care – which is the most important thing. Striking the balance of caring while also being realistic and keeping perspective is a fine art. It may take some time and discipline, but it is a key to managing parent guilt.

Look after yourself and be kind to yourself and remember …..


My Article: 10 ways to STOP Guilt – The Biggest Gremlin of Parenting!

and the

Health Line Article

Guilt Makes a Heavy Burden. Don’t Let It Drag You Down

  1. Name your guilt
  2. Explore the source
  3. Make amends
  4. Learn from the past
  5. Gratitude Attitude
  6. Self-compassion
  7. Guilt as a tool
  8. Forgive yourself
  9. Talk to people
  10. Talk with a therapist, coach or counsellor

Here are some tips on negotiating with your EX

Negotiating with your ex-partner is never going to be the most pleasant experience. There is a lot of history there, full of simmering resentment and unsaid feelings. However, you have a child together so you are going to have to find a way of making decisions together.

Follow this 10 point checklist to try to make the conversation run smoothly:

  1. Stay Calm

Yes, it’s easier said than done. Getting angry is not going to get you anywhere though, and she will hold it against it in the future. Take a deep breath, count to ten, and leave the room if you have to, but never let your anger get the better of you.

  1. Listen

Really listening to what your ex has to say and not just what you think she is saying or what you want to hear, can make a huge difference. Concentrate on her opinion and take it in so that you can respond in a well thought out way.

  1. Don’t Bring up Old Grudges

There will be all sorts of old arguments that you may be tempted to bring up but really, what’s it going to achieve? Stick to sorting out the matter in hand and don’t let past events colour your judgement.

  1. Never Make Accusations

The minute you start making accusations she is going to get defensive and probably make some accusations of her own. This just turns it into a fight of ‘who’s the best parent’ when you should be concentrating on your child instead.

  1. Leave Other People Out

Whether it is their partner, your ex-mother-in-law or her boozy friend, remember, it’s not about them, it’s about you, her and your child. Other people are not important and bringing them into the matter will only complicate it further.

  1. Tame Your Language

Turning the conversation into a slanging match may make you feel better but it won’t help you communicate with each other or set a good example for the child that you are trying to raise.

  1. Know What You Want

Instead of just wanting to win, think about exactly what it is you want to achieve. By having a clear goal, you can keep the negotiation on track and not be tempted to raise other issues.

  1. Make a Case

Once you know what you want, start thinking up a strategic argument. Work out your reasons for and against, what she may say, and how you are going to put across your case clearly and convincingly.

  1. Compromise

Unfortunately, we can’t always have things the way we want and you are going to have to learn to compromise. By both giving a little, you can try to reach an agreement that you are both happy with.

  1. Put Your Child First

Of course, you should already know this but it is easy to lose sight of when you are stuck in an argument with your ex. Your ultimate goal is not to do what is best for you, or her but what is best for your child.

By following these 10 points you should be able to work out a way to negotiate with your ex. It’s not always going to go the way you want it but continued work and commitment will make the process easier for all of you.

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