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.

What can be achieved when young people are empowered?

An example of how introducing one-page profiles to school pupils in a workshop led two students to respect and understand each other’s differences and improved the learning environment for both. Logan’s story captures the successes achieved when young people feel empowered to say what is important to them how best others can support them.

Logan's one-page profile

Logan’s one-page profile

Written by Barb Swartz-Biscaro

Logan is an energetic young man from Dunchurch Ontario, Canada. He is a very creative thinker who often wants to voice his thoughts in the moment.

When Logan was in Grade 3 his mom offered to do a one-page profile workshop with his class so that the students could learn and share more information about and with each other. During three one hour workshops, Logan participated with his class. They did different activities to share what they liked about each other, what is important to them and how best to support them. They then went on to put this information into a scrapbook one-page profile. Logan’s class posted their profiles on a bulletin board outside their classroom to share with the school.

Shortly after the profiles were developed Logan began having difficulty with another student. They sat next to each other in class and Logan was too noisy for her.  She needed it to be quiet in order to concentrate.  Logan’s mom suggested getting together with the other student and her mom to iron out the situation but Logan and his classmate decided to come up with a solution on their own. They used their profiles and expanded on the information to learn about each other, have a discussion and come up with a solution. Logan and his classmate along with the two moms got together to celebrate the success.

Modifications were discussed with Logan’s teacher to make the learning environment more successful for both students. The two would sit further away from each other and Logan would have a pad of paper on his desk to write down any ideas or questions that came to mind during class time if they did not fit into the current class discussion. He would then have time to come back to them and discuss these at recess or at the end of the day.

Using the profile as a starting point for conversation with Logan, his friend and the teacher made Logan feel valued and important in his life. He had control in making decisions about how to deal with situations, what modifications worked for him or how the team could change things to suit his needs.

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.