5 top tips for using one-page profiles in divorce

Sue Atkins

Sue Atkins

Written by Sue Atkins

I am a Parenting Expert, Writer, Speaker, Broadcaster, Parenting Coach and a mum! I’ve used one-page profiles in my work for many years and with my own family and can’t rave enough about their usefulness for improving communication, relationships, a child’s self esteem and self confidence

More recently I have been using one-page profiles to help children and families going through the often challenging and traumatic experience of a divorce as well as working with children whose parents have separated, experiencing  all of the changes that this can bring; from living in two different homes,  splitting their time between mum and dad, moving schools, to experiencing lots of changing routines,

This is a subject very close to my heart as more than a year ago my ex husband and I started divorce proceedings.  I discovered via Facebook that he was having an inappropriate relationship with another woman which came as quite a shock!  We had been married for 21 years and had brought up  two wonderful children and shared a full life together.  But as  I tell my clients,  divorce is a process not an event and over time you begin to see the opportunities that change can open up for you.

My children are grown up now but many of the parents that I work with have younger children and they come to me because they understand that divorce is life changing and that whilst the adults are making the decisions the children can be left feeling like everything that they knew is different, leading to feelings of powerlessness, insecurity and isolation. By using one-page profiles with families going through divorce we are able to uncover what is working and not working from the child’s perspective, what is important to them and for them and what support they need during this time. It puts the child at the centre of the decision making and brings back the focus to them so that their voices are heard above the noise of a relationship break-up.

I use one-page profiles with parents too before we sit down with the children.  Supporting mum or dad to feel empowered and in control is critical to their wellbeing and therefore their ability to support their children through divorce. The more I work with families and see the results that one-page profiles can have, the more I would like to see them being used more frequently with children whose parents are getting divorce. Perhaps it is a service that divorce solicitors could offer to their clients to help their children process this life changing event? What if all schools used them and were able to help a child communicate their feelings through their profile when things are difficult at home? I often think about how we can get this resource out there to as many people as possible so that they too can experience its benefits and feel happier and better supported because of it.

I know first-hand that one-page profiles can be invaluable to keeping communication flowing and reminding us all about what is important and to whom during divorce and I’m just glad that more people are going to hear about them through this blog. Here are, in my opinion,  the top 5 benefits for using one-page profiles in divorce:

  1. It puts the child at the centre of the divorce, ahead of the emotions of the parents, ahead of any disagreements and firmly at the heart of all decision making.
  2. It can make a child feel listened to at a time when their voice could be lost amidst the noise, drama and pain of a relationship break-up.
  3. It helps parents gain clarity; direction and confidence about what mum and dad need to do to support their child in the way they want to feel supported through all the changes.
  4. It gives children and parents who use one-page profiles a sense of choice and control at a time of extreme change.
  5. Because of the way a one-page profile is structured , the information is so simple, quick and easy to digest it can be shown to school, other family members and friends so that people outside of the immediate family can contribute to supporting the child during the divorce process.

Sue Atkins is a spokesperson for one-page profiles because she believes in their value and would like to see more people learn about and be able to use the tool in their own life. If you would like to learn more about Sue Atkins and the work she does with families please visit her website.

Shifting into a good place – one-page profiles in divorce

An example of how this woman used a one-page profile to address what was working and not working in her life and make positive statements to achieve better support and long term change.

Mary's one-page profile

Mary’s one-page profile

Written by Sue Atkins, Parenting Expert

Mary is an Estate Agent who lives in North London. Her family live 50 miles from her so she felt a little isolated from practical support. Mary was going through a divorce and came to me because she was feeling overwhelmed and confused. Her work was suffering as she couldn’t concentrate which bothered her greatly. She also felt that she was impatient, tearful and short tempered with her children and wasn’t being consistent in her discipline.

I went through the one-page profile process as an overview – explaining what a one-page profile was, how it could work for her as well as for her children and that we would be looking at what was working and not working from her view point first – as if she shifted into a good place everything would change and get better

The one-page profile was primarily used to build back Mary’s self esteem as it had taken a battering since splitting up with her husband and her confidence was low. This meant she was finding it difficult to make decisions about finances, selling the  house, dividing furniture, sharing out photos and sorting out the children. On top of these practicalities she was of course experiencing all the emotional guilt, despair and grief that comes from the break-up of a marriage.

Mary’s one-page profile made an enormous difference, quickly, easily and simply. Mary soon felt back in control of small areas of her life which then built her confidence to tackle the larger things. Her relationship with her children improved, she felt more in control of their discipline and boundaries and she began to create her own NEW traditions and ways of doing things which felt empowering

After just the initial first one-hour session Mary told me she felt soooo much better and it took just three weeks of these sessions to really see her long term confidence return.  We still top her up once a month now to keep her sense of moving forward and address what is working and not working which is an ongoing process. The great thing about one-page profiles is that you can add to them and adapt them as what is important to you and what support you need changes. They evolve with you and so continue to work to empower and support you as you move into new areas of your life.

When homelife changes – Finding a new path

This family were struggling under the pressures of a divorce, a pending move, arguments and stressful exams. They needed support to rebuild their confidence, listen and hear each other well. An example of how one-page profiles can be used to support families experiencing divorce.

Yasmin's one-page profile

Yasmin’s one-page profile

Written by Sue Atkins, Parenting Expert

Yasmin worked for a University as a PA. She came to me because her home-life was changing dramatically. Her teenage kids were suffering from arguments as they were both studying for important exams. She had a comfortable lifestyle but was going through an acrimonious divorce and was transfixed with fear about losing her home and how she was going to cope with all the changes that lay ahead.

Yasmin wanted support to rebuild her confidence, determine her new path in life and form ideas about how to handle her husband’s furious outbursts in front of the children during the divorcing process.

Yasmin had found out that her husband, a doctor, was having an affair with a younger nurse at the hospital. He suffers from OCD himself and the unhappy atmosphere in the house was unbearable as her husband initially refused to move out despite his affair. This family lived in Birmingham and the daughter was studying for her A Levels whilst the younger brother was studying for his GCSE’s during this traumatic, stressful time. Things were so difficult that Yasmin’s daughter started suffering from alopecia.

Yasmin and I had three, one-hour secession over the phone where we created her one-page profile with the aim of giving her clarity, direction and empowerment. Then I coached each child for an hour over the phone to help them in creating theirs. I always start with parents when creating one-page profiles with a family. It is so important that mum gets her confidence back and feels able to express herself, identifying what is important and what support she needs first in order to be able to support her children.

Whilst creating the one-page profiles we had good conversations about what was working and not working. This was the most powerful part of the process for the children who both finally felt heard and could be supported in the way they wanted to be supported.

The process of healing and forgiveness began and the kids bonded more with their Mum. She in turn gained in confidence and they TALKED more and looked at solutions not just difficulties.

I heard recently Yasmin and the kids were in Time Square celebrating Yasmin’s 50th birthday – they had moved into rented accommodation and were slowly putting back the pieces to their lives. We still do Working/ Not Working every 2 months during the transition then I do what I call “Wriggle Room” where they call me when they need me or get a bit stuck. It’s a powerful empowering process.

Using profiles in early years

Written by Guest Blogger, Nathan Archer, Development Manager at Montessori Nursery, Read Nathan’s one-page profile.

 

Nathan Archer

Nathan Archer

Lincolnshire Montessori offers nursery and Primary education from two sites in Lincolnshire. We have children from six months through to 11 years old on roll and a team of sixty professionals on site.

We first discovered one-page profiles via a weekly early years sector Tweet Up #EYtalking on Tuesdays 8.00pm GMT.

The weekly theme was on Learning Journeys, which for those who are unfamiliar, are an approach to formative assessment in the early years, which is largely qualitative and respectful. Essentially, observations of individual or groups of children are written and often comprise photographic evidence, children’s artwork or a record of their ‘voice’ in a range of ways. Parents/carers, family members and other professionals are also encouraged to contribute. Many early years settings collect these stories in booklet, file or scrap book format to form the child’s learning journey through the Early Years Foundation Stage.

During this discussion, a colleague pointed us to Helen Sanderson Associates website and the youtube video on one-page profiles.

Cue Light bulb moment!

What struck us was the way in which such personal information would enable us to really know a child and their family, developing a much deeper understanding of a child’s personality, disposition, routines and welfare needs in an holistic way.

One of the four main themes of the Early Years Foundation Stage  is ‘A Unique Child’ and we felt that one-page profiles were a very tangible way of reflecting our understanding of the needs of individual children.

We purchased a postcard from the Helen Sanderson website which gave an example of a profile for a little girl called Flo. This proved a helpful basis for developing our own profiles. We took the headings from the card as the basis;

What do we love about….

What is important to…..

How to look after….

Our Head of Early Years Jo Robinson completed a sample one-page profile based on her youngest son which served as a prompt for both parents and professionals about the kind of information which might be shared to inform the child’s care.

We have coupled this one-page profile with a starting point sheet (an OfSTED requirement) which enables the team to capture a child’s starting points in terms of their development in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). On the reverse of the profile, Practitioners make brief notes under the seven areas of learning and the Characteristics of Effective Learning; Active Learning, Playing and exploring and Creativity and Critical thinking.

By combining these two elements we have created a real snapshot of a child who joins us, both in terms of their uniqueness and how best to meet their needs, with a summary of their learning and development as a base for future progress.

Feedback from parents/carers has been very positive and we feel that children are even better cared for with their individual needs more closely met.

There has also been real enthusiasm from the team for the new one-page profiles, who rather than seeing it as yet another form, feel they are capturing helpful information to really personalise the care and education we offer.

A snapshot; This is me!

An example of how by developing a one-page profile this mother of three has built the confidence to self advocate and direct her own support.  Marie started her profile journey after a stay in a woman’s shelter led her to Centrepoint Facilitation for Housing. Her story demonstrates how strength, perseverance and better communication can lead to positive life changes.

Marie's one-page profile

Marie’s one-page profile

Written by Carol Carters

Eva Marie is a single mother with three young children who we met in July 2012. She was staying at a local woman’s shelter with her children and was referred to Centerpoint Facilitation for Housing Support.  Eva Marie is 30 years old and likes to go by the name Marie. She has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, and so have two of her children. 

The one-page profile was developed with Marie so that I, as her Housing Support Worker, could learn more about her and her family and how best to support them. It was also intended to help Marie share what was important to her in regards to her children and to assist her in being able to see what a wonderful mother and person she is.  It was hoped that the one-page profile would give anyone supporting Marie a “snapshot” of who she is and how best to support her as an individual.

In order to develop her profile Marie and I first met to work through what is important to her and her family. Together, we then talked about how Marie would best like to be supported, and what people should do to support her.  We met several times in order to develop the profile. During this time Marie was able to find housing and moved into her new home.

The one-page profile helped me and other supports in her life to not only understand her more deeply and support her in the way that she wanted and needed, but it also identified all of Marie’s gifts and strengths.  It gave Marie a huge sense of self achievement, helping her to see how she has persevered and how strong and independent she really is.  Since the one-page profile was developed with Marie, she has taken pride in being able to advocate for herself and make the community connections that she wanted for herself and her girls.

Soon after her profile was developed, Marie received an eviction notice from her landlord.  Marie felt that the eviction notice was unfair and started proceedings to dispute it all on her own.  I supported her in this, in the way that her profile specified.

The impact the one-page profile has had on her has been significant in her feeling strong and able to deal with the different challenges that her disability and the disabilities of her children present.  Marie and her children are supported in the way that works for them, as people can clearly see what this looks like.  When I am away, the backup Housing Support Worker can take a look at Marie’s profile and know how to support her and her family.

Marie is more confident in her own abilities and is able to advocate for herself in many different situations such as her income, her children’s school, and her tenancy.

Read how Helen Sanderson Associates are using person-centred thinking tools with people who are homeless or who need support to find housing here.