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.

Helping children feel heard in divorce

An example of how one-page profiles can be used with parents and children to overcome family issues that have resulted from the separation of mum and dad.

Sophie's one-page profile

Sophie’s one-page profile

Written by Sue Atkins, Parenting Expert

Sophie’s ex Gary had a new girlfriend and the kids didn’t like her. They didn’t want her staying over when they were with their dad and this was making Gary unhappy. This was a difficult time for Sophie. She felt trapped, coping with her own emotional issues about this as well as trying to support her children.  She needed clarity, direction and confidence in handling this particular issue.

Sophie came to see me in my office and we worked on building her one-page profile. Our first aim was to give her back her confidence and self esteem – we then looked at ways to support her first and once that was agreed we looked at ways of approaching the sleepover issues and the kids not liking their Dad’s new girlfriend.

It was important that when the girls joined us on the next session that they were relaxed and comfortable so we did this around my kitchen table keeping it informal and friendly.

We created one-page profiles with the girls with arts and crafts. The profiles we bright, colourful and 3D which is what they wanted and as we had music as we spoke so the whole experience felt fun and uplifting.

Then we looked at what the kids wanted to see happen. Both the girls came up with really wonderful ideas by themselves. This is why the one-page profile is so good to use with children; it helps them to feel heard, understood and part of the process.

We agreed that they would put their ideas into practice over the coming week and report back on how it went. This gave us the opportunity to discuss new issues, tweak our approach and talk about new approaches.  We did this over the period of a month.  At times it was challenging to get it all to work – but we got there in the end and everyone felt more relaxed.

I believe that one-page profiles yield massive results over time. In this particular case, the family kept tweaking and adjusting the ideas, the ways they behaved, the way Mum spoke about Dad and the new girlfriend. Despite Dad not being fully on board with the process, the kids and Mum carved out their own solutions to that particular issue. Now we are working on a few of the others using the same one-page profile process.

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.