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Dads Alive is a 6-part positive and uplifting audio journey for listeners experiencing situational distress as a result of separation. Each month we deep-dive one aspect of situational distress with a qualified subject matter expert to better understand legal rights, prioritise mental and physical health, and feel a sense of community in knowing we are not alone in finding inner strength, resilience and perseverance. Join the #dadsalive community on Facebook and Instagram so together we can support dads in distress.

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Welcome to our podcast, Dads Alive, where we explore topics of relevance to separated dads. Before we start, we’d like to remind you that this episode contains content that may be triggering to some listeners and explores themes of suicide, distress and discussions of relationship and situational trauma. Listener discretion is advised. We would also like to state that the views and opinions expressed by podcast guests do not necessarily state or reflect those of the company and its management. We would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land in which we are recording and listening to this podcast. We pay respects to elders both past, present and future, and we recognize our First Nations listeners and dads.

Parental alienation occurs when a child refuses to have a relationship with one of their parents due specifically to manipulation, such as the conveying of exaggerated or false information, by the other parent. The situation most often arises during family breakdown and parental separation. The phenomena may be overtly intentional or subconsciously unintentional but the outcome itself is nearly always abusive and damaging to the child and to the targeted parent.  

The alienating parent, the perpetrator, will typically use a variety of strategies to turn the child against the other parent. It ranges from overtly informing the child, repeatedly, that the other parent does not love them and does not want to know them, to very subtle but specific emotional responses to a child’s comment about the other parent. For example, showing glee when the child criticises the other parent or showing no emotion when the child speaks fondly of the other parent. Over time the child is programmed to learn what pleases the alienating parent and what upsets them. It is common for the alienating parent to blame the other parent for the relationship breakdown and to make sure the child understands that this is the reason their family is no longer together. The alienating parent will also often move away, forcing the targeted parent to lose touch though the tyranny of distance. A particularly pernicious weapon when the targeted parent is unable to move to retain contact. 

The experience can be extremely destabilising and traumatising to a child. Their life is uprooted, they seemingly lose the love of one parent and are sometimes made to feel that they are hated by that forcibly estranged parent. They lack the information to make sense of what is happening to them. There is no marking the end of the relationship that they have lost and more often than not, no way to grieve what has been taken from them. The sudden and inexplicable loss of their most trusted and loved protector induces trauma that is potentially lifelong and forms the basis for what may later emerge as personality disorder. 

Preventing the child having time with the targeted parent, especially defying court orders, is a common sign of parental alienation. Making negative comments about the other parent, blaming them for the divorce, making false accusations of abuse or neglect, and threatening to withhold affection if the child expresses positive feelings about the absent parent are also hallmarks of alienation.

The medical sector and psychology in particular does not recognize parental alienation as a pathology, a diagnosable condition. However, brainwashing a child to reject or hate an otherwise loving, available and normal range parent does occur and is recognized by the courts as long as there is evidence to demonstrate it. As the phenomena becomes better known, it is also marked by those who inappropriately use the claim of Parental Alienation to justify to themselves and others why their children might legitimately seek little to do with them. 

Parental Alienation can occur when the alienating parent relies on the child for emotional support; a process sometimes known as parentification. The child takes on the role of a parent, emotionally supporting an alienating parent unable to prevent their anger, need for revenge, jealousy or desire to extort the targeted parent from influencing their own world view and perspective. In this manner, the child is brainwashed. Commonly this stems from the alienating parent themselves suffering emotional instability or narcissism; transferring their own rage and pain to the child. 

Legally, a targeted parent can fight alienation in the family courts, but they need to provide proof that is acceptable to the law. Parents child relationships marked by alienation can be healed and the situation reversed but it is rarely without lasting trauma and not without court  mandated or other specialised reunification support and counselling. 

Recently, we sat down with Stan Korosi, a consultant, clinical sociologist, and clinical counsellor specialising in parental alienation and remediating alienated parent child relationships. In today’s episode, Stan explores some of the ways to identify signs of alienation and how to cope if you find yourself exposed to the signs. 

So. Hello Stan Korosi. On behalf of our audience today, could you share with us who you are and what it is that you do?

Well, good evening, everyone. So, yes, I am Stan Korosi. I am a clinical sociologist. I specialised in the field of parental alienation, specifically from the alienated parents perspective. I’m also an adjunct fellow in the School of Law and Society at the University of the Sunshine Coast, where I did my PhD. And what do I do? I help parents as best I can, get their cases through family law and formulate their cases according to the best evidence and models that we have to see if they can recover their children. And I’ve got a team of people who provide a variety of integrated services and functions that help them do that.

Can you tell us what exactly is parental alienation?

Well, that’s a really good question. Parental alienation is, in a way, a part of a much bigger human experience of alienation. It dates right back to the earliest conceptions of the human experience through the myth of Medea, the Greek myth, where Medea, one of the Greek goddesses, murders her children to punish her husband, Jason, who was off having affairs with the other goddesses, as they do. And so alienation has been around as part of the human experience from the get go. It manifests specifically in parental alienation, as in the setting of the family, where a parent psychologically manipulates a child into unwarranted and unjustified fear, disrespect, contempt or hostility towards a parent, which may involve resistance to spending time with that parent or outright rejection. And that resistance or rejection is without cause, and it’s disproportionate to the child’s historic relationship with that parent. And that’s a pretty well understood definition. That definition has its roots back to the mid 1980s, when Dr. Richard Gardner first formulated parental alienation, and he called it a disorder which arises primarily in the context of child custody disputes. And its primary manifestation, according to him, is the child’s campaign of denigration against a parent.

It’s a campaign that has no justification, and it results from a combination of what he calls programming, other people call it brainwashing and a parent’s indoctrination, and their child’s own contribution to vilifying their targeted parent. So those two definitions are nearly 40 years apart, yet they maintain direct traceability. So anyone who says that there’s no agreed definition of parental alienation is wrong.

Well, that’s actually good to hear. And in fact, it leads me to ask another question around this because of the confusion that exists. What is PA or parental alienation often confused with?

Alienation is one reason why a child may resist or reject a parent. There are other reasons where a child can be resistant or rejecting where there is some justification. So, for example, children exposed to family violence who have witnessed a parent abusing their other parent or they have been abused or neglected themselves may not want to spend time with a parent they see as a perpetrator. And that’s what we call realistic estrangement. So estrangement and alienation are not the same things. So with estrangement there is a justification. There’s a good reason why a child doesn’t want to be with a parent. Another reason is that children have complicated reactions to their parents’ separation and divorce. And they have difficult and complicated ways of showing grief, sometimes through anger. Sometimes they’re angry and sad. Sometimes they’re sad and angry. And so they may resist being with a parent. But again, that’s different. They don’t lose their ambivalence towards that parent. They still love both parents. They just don’t understand what’s happened. And sometimes they may feel safer with one parent than the other but not for reasons of abuse but because the divorce and separation is so painful to them. Those are the other forms of resistance and refusal.

Okay. Well, it makes me think that actually a lot of these cases will end up in court at some time and experts will get involved. In your experience, how do experts and the courts, family courts specifically view the issue of parental alienation?

Well, in Australia it varies across the states and territories. So in Western Australia, there is a much better understanding of parental alienation and specifically parental alienation behaviours as being very harmful to the child. And so in Western Australia, it’s easier, relatively speaking, to get a parental alienation case across the line. Well, that is, to successfully argue that those parental alienation behaviours are harmful to the child and it’s not in their best interest to be exposed to them. In other states, there is a confused understanding of what parental alienation is. Many of the states, the family law system there and practitioners who work with families have confused understandings, relying on incorrect, obsolete information and sometimes outright misinformation to form their views. The important thing in my experience in working through family law principally with parents is you actually don’t have to prove it’s parental alienation or not. What you have to show is that what’s happening for your child is harming them. So there’s a focus on the behaviours, parental behaviours and linking them to the children’s presentations. It doesn’t matter what you call it, as long as you develop that link and you show that it’s harmful to the child that’s not in their best interest to continue to be exposed to it and specifically, where a child has rejected a parent that sometimes the only way for that rejection to be overcome is to remove the child from the harmful and abusive environment. It’s what we call a reversal of parental care and responsibility. And that’s the gold platinum standard for dealing with severe cases.

Actually, that leads me to then ask the question, how does one assess whether this is or is not a case of parental alienation? Or if that term isn’t used in the court, how is that behaviour set? How does one actually demonstrate that that is the case?

So we now have evidence based models and frameworks to apply an assessment framework to a situation. So we rely heavily on a validated link between known parental alienation behaviours and alienation presentations in children. Many people would be familiar with the original eight criteria for parental alienation in children, and those are really broad descriptions. They’re not really specific enough to do an assessment. But since then, and that was developed in the 1980s, but certainly from recently, we have a much tighter linkage between specific behaviours and children’s presentations. Then we have an evidence based model that we can use to differentiate between parental alienation presentations and, for example, a presentation in which the rejected parent has implicated themselves in their own rejection, such as family violence, for example, or some form of coercive control. So that evidence based model is the standard that should be used. Unfortunately, many practitioners in the family law setting don’t do that, and they don’t use that model or that evidence.

Okay, Dr. Korosi, thank you very much for your time. That’s it for today, and I’m sure we’ll be back talking to you on behalf of our listeners at some point again in the near future. Thank you.

Today we’re speaking to a dad called Jim, not his real name. We’re protecting his identity for the purposes of this interview. Jim is going to talk a little bit to us about his experience of parental alienation. So, Jim, without further ado, provide us a brief overview of your family situation.

Sure. So I guess I’ll start by saying that I’m in my 50s now. I’m in my 8th year of fighting for access to my children, and my situation is not the norm, but it’s not uncommon. So I’ve never married, and thank God I didn’t marry the mother of my children, or I’d be in a lot worse shape than I am. My children were retained in the USA in 2015 by their mum in what I was sold as a short holiday to introduce my son, newly born in Melbourne, to his American grandparents. But once there, the mum advised that she didn’t want to go back to Australia, and she wanted to break up and remain in the USA without me, but with our dual citizen children. Now, I said no. I’ve returned to Australia. I got legal counsel advice, and asked the mum to return the children voluntarily. There’s a bit of yes and then no, and then she moved the dress and went on the run, and that was to avoid service of a thing called the Hay Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Finally, after about two years, the mum threatened to kill our two children if forced to return. Then I went back to the USA to look for them, unsuccessfully. I then initiated a custody case in Australia which does allow for service via email, and that led to orders inclusive of the children’s US address. The mum did appear in court via telephone, and this ultimately led to a reunion with my children after nearly three years, but also my service as a defendant in Rhode Island Family Court, which was unhappily able to overlook the mum’s perjury about the lack of an existing court action abroad. And four years on, I’m still in that space in the Rhode Island system, so I’m still awaiting my very first evidentiary hearing and I’m appealing jurisdiction. And it’s been four years since I last helped my children.

 

So what makes you believe that you are or were alienated from your children until 2020?

The mum wouldn’t let me video call with the kids, but she would, on occasion, pick up the phone and I could speak to the children, and that’s kind of surreal. When I last saw them back in 2015, they couldn’t string a sentence together. And on the phone, things started to get tough and the kids actually stopped saying, love you back to me, and they didn’t want to talk. And I was ultimately able to get interim orders for video calls in 2020, and that’s a massive improvement. And one of my two children is now happy to say love you back to me. But I got to say that one to 2 hours a week on Skype does not make a father sure.

 

What was it like for you and the kids?

My children still don’t know what it’s all about or what alienation means. I mean, it’s my job, as I say it, to prevent them from knowing that they’re alienated and I’m alienated from them or estranged. I want their world to be as normal as possible, and that’s kind of all they’ve known. My daughter barely remembers Australia and the family there, and my son not at all, because he was just a baby when we left for the USA for the holiday. For me, it was the first year that was especially tough. It’s kind of like I had my head in a dingo trap, clamped hard, or a cortisol dripping directly into my brain. It was just non stop, relentless pounding. I just couldn’t get on top of my problems, and that was almost for a year. But relief did come, but only when I accepted my children as lost. And that’s not easy. Lots of people go through this, but I can only describe it as a psychological execution where you have to pull the trigger, and thereafter, you just need to live your life with gratitude that for that short while that you knew your kids, that was a blessing and happy that you had that short period, and happy that your kids are in the world. And if ultimately my children are not returned home to Australia, and if I don’t get any visitation orders, I’ll know that I’ll survive and that I’ve done all I could.

It’s a story we hear all too often. You did, however, mention earlier that you now do speak to them on a relatively regular basis via Skype. So you’ve had something of a positive outcome. What did it take to get there?

Look, it’s nothing less than the sacrifice of my future potential to attend to all the legal necessities required. So as a pro se defendant in the US Family Court, it takes a lot of energy, it takes a lot of time. A lawyer over there is out of the question. We’re talking about $500 an hour. So, you know, I’m forced to self represent and just live off savings and loans until I can get through. I may still have years ahead of me, but it’s been four years thus far, and I’m never going to get that time back.

Well, I see. In reference to that, what is the lasting impact on you and the kids?

Look, parenting children, I think it’s a bit of a ying yang thing. It’s a balance. And my kids are all ying and no yang. I mean, being in America, it means that they’re at much, much greater risk of mental health problems, of drug addiction, teen pregnancy, of incarceration, of less education and the associated income, and, of course, repeating the cycle of single parenting. For me directly, it means my culture and my beliefs are not being passed down. My late father didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to his grandchildren. The same fate is likely to fall upon my mother and realistically, on me, too.

Thank you. And in your view and based on your experience, how might these issues be avoided on a systematic basis?

There’s no mystery there. It’s the same answer parenting groups were saying 50 years ago, we need to return to natural law. L-O-R-E. Every culture and every major religion of the world has a version of the Golden Rule: do unto others as you have others do unto you. We all remember as kids that there was a treat to be shared with a sibling. Our parents would have one of us cut it, and then the other sibling would choose their half. And that’s what we need to return to. We know kids flourish best with near to equal time with mum and dad. So it’s a simple matter of replacing a subjective judge with law. Or better yet, a rebuttable constitutional right to our own children separating. Parents come to the courts with their own agreed consent orders, or it’s simply noon Sunday handovers until they do. Moms can have odd weeks, Dads, even weeks. And the courtrooms are safe for the criminals now. It works well overseas, like in Scandinavian countries. It can work here, too, by removing all of the incentives for one parent or their lawyer to game the system. That we have not done this already is worthy of a royal commission.

Jim, thank you very much. I wish we had more time, but in the short space of time that we had, I think you’ve put your case very eloquently and given our listeners a good insight into the complexity of separating and the alienation that often follows. Thank you once again for your time. 

Thank you. 

Are you a separating parent or grandparent in need of support? Are you facing child access and family law issues? Do you work in the area of family support? Join some of Australia’s leading experts in family law, child access and situational distress, along with lived, experienced mums and dads for a far reaching and compelling discussion on Parental Alienation Awareness Day, October 12, 2023. To register. Go to: parentsbeyondbreakup.com/conference/2023.

Dads in Distress provides 100% free confidential and nonjudgmental support to Dads through in person and online support groups, workshops, and, of course, our Helpline, which operates seven days a week. If you or someone you know has been affected by the themes explored in today’s podcast, help is available. Call our Helpline on 1300 853 437 or get in touch with us today on our website, www.dids.org.au. To join the DIDs community, follow us on Facebook @dadsindistress.

 

Welcome to our podcast, Dads Alive, where we explore topics of relevance to separated dads. Before we start, we’d like to remind you that this episode contains content that may be triggering to some listeners and explores themes of suicide distress and discussions of relationship and situational trauma. Listener discretion is advised. We would also like to state that the views and opinions expressed by podcast guests do not necessarily state or reflect those of the company and its management. We would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land in which we are recording and listening to this podcast. We pay respects to elders past, present and future, and we recognize our First Nations listeners and dads.

 

On today’s episode, we’re sitting down with Glenn Poole, CEO of the Australian Men’s Health Forum, to discuss the importance of seeking peer support for dads suffering from situational distress. Thank you so much for joining us. Glenn. As a respected leader and advocate for Australian men’s and boys health, in your role as CEO of AMHF, as well as having lived experience of being a separated dad, could you share some insights on how best to support and reach dads needing that critical support?

 

Yeah, I think the first thing to say is, as someone who’s really interested in government policy and how we systemically and culturally help men, I think the first thing to say is, at one level, the problems that separated fathers face are structural, not individual. So we need to have better systems in place. We need to have a better cultural understanding that separated dads are often a vulnerable group. Not all separated dads. We know that many separated dads are able to resolve things with their ex, have good ongoing relationship with their children, report good life satisfaction, may often establish new relationships, and not face a huge amount of problems beyond the initial sort of distress of separation. But for a significant minority of separated dads, there is a huge impact, and often an ongoing impact over not just weeks and months, but sometimes a sizable chunk of their adult life impacts, their social well being, their physical health, their mental health. We know it’s a high risk group for suicide. We know from really detailed research that there’s an impact on financial well being and often a really significant impact on the quality of relationship that separated dads have with their children.

Separated dads being significantly more likely than separated mums to report having a deteriorated relationship with their kids. So if we don’t understand and acknowledge these problems social level, it makes it less likely that we’re primed at a community level to support dads. So I think that’s the first thing to say. We need people from the top of society, our leaders, acknowledging that separated dads are often doing it tough and what they really want to do is be the best dad they can be, irrespective of what their family circumstances are. And it’s good for all of us that actually we help them make that transition into separated fathers and continue to be a contributing member of society, been involved in the upbringing of their kids, being able to carry on contributing in the workforce, contributing their community. But often a lot of separated dads need support to be able to get there. And so if we don’t acknowledge there’s a problem, we don’t then go looking for solutions. Which is why it’s often left to community led groups like Dads In Distress to actually fill the gaps that the system doesn’t fill. So clearly, I’m a huge supporter of Dads In Distress, have been for many, many years, one of the best examples around the globe of a project that’s supporting dads.

And one of the keys to the success of Dads In Distress is it’s largely run by other dads who’ve been through the same circumstances. And you cannot overstate what it feels like as a separated dad to be faced by a world even your closest friends often who don’t understand what you’re going through because there’s no shared cultural narrative about separated dads and their struggles. Often separated dads are depicted as being feckless, walking away from their families, this type of thing irresponsible, not paying child support. There’s all these negative stereotypes about separated dads, but very few sort of narratives about the struggles separated dads face and the help they need. So finally, being in a room with other blokes who’ve been through the same thing, it’s like a huge weight off your shoulder because no longer are you living in a world where no one gets how tough it is for you. So, yeah, that’s why peer support is just so important to separated dads and we just need more of it and more people involved in family breakdown to be using that tool. People like the family courts, people like lawyers, referring dads into support groups like Dads In Distress.

How specifically has peer support helped you? And how could it further help other fathers?

So I went through separation in the last century. It seems like such a long time ago now, but when I talk about it, it can feel like yesterday. So 24 years ago, me and my daughter’s Mum split up and I just walked into the world of being a separated dad, blind, backwards, have no idea what I was was in for or what I was dealing with. And looking back, I wish I’d actually had immediate access to a group like Dads In Distress or a helpline staffed by separated dads to give me the support and guidance for me. At that time, I lent heavily on friends, family to some extent, but friends of the same age. And that was tough on it was tough on them. I was probably the first bloke in my cohort of mates who’d become a dad. So none of them really had an experience of being a dad in the first place, let alone being a separated dad and so it was really hard to find mates who put up with me because I needed to talk, I really needed to talk and work it out. And I just had one mate in particular who just really rose to the occasion, surprised himself.

 

We didn’t even know each other that well, but he just seemed to have the capacity to really take on the challenge of supporting me. And as I said earlier, so firstly, I just want to acknowledge him, that looking back, in many ways, he kept me saying maybe he kept me alive, but he made a huge difference to my life and a tip to anyone. The key thing is he just listened, didn’t try and fix me, he didn’t try and tell me what I should do, he genuinely listened and he had a lot of listening to do. And knowing that he’d heard my story and was taking it all on board, I couldn’t make sense of this stuff that was going on, but to know someone else was listening as I tried to make sense of it made a huge difference. And later on, in a kind of weird way, I got more involved because I said earlier that separation can impact people for not just weeks and months, but for years and years and years. You may get to a situation where you think the separation is completed and you have some kind of routine in place with your kids.

But the challenge of Coparenting, even when there’s an arrangement in place can be really difficult and you can need support on an ongoing basis as you face new and different challenges as you go through it. And for me it was a bit unusual in that I actually got involved after a couple of years of separation. I really wanted to make a difference for others and I actually started to get involved in groups that were working with separated dads and I did a lot of work in the sort of campaigning policy space. And this sounds like an odd kind of peer support, but what it did is it brought me in contact with dozens of other men who’d been through the same or similar circumstances as myself. And it was only through getting to know them, sharing experience, being around them, not having to explain myself, knowing that they understood what had happened to me, that I was able to start to make sense of what had happened and put my life back together. So I didn’t actually have access to a formal peer support group, but I did surround myself for a period with peers, men who’d been through a similar circumstance.

And that made the biggest difference to me in making sense of the trauma and the stress that I’d been through.

In talking to men and fathers in particular. What examples can you provide of simple actions that you’ve taken that may have helped reduce isolation and put you in contact with other dads in the same situation.

 

Yeah. So for me, I didn’t access a lot of support from peers. I mean, I probably phoned helpline a couple of times was okay at the time. The helpline that was around in the UK where I was in the 90s, wasn’t fantastic. You had to become a member to get access to it. That was the first sort of step. I could usually get a chat off someone, the end of the phone, and I would certainly recommend that, particularly now when there’s free help lines, particularly for separated dads available. And then I didn’t do a lot of my therapeutic sort of healing work in different settings, like with friends who weren’t fathers. But the longer term healing work, putting it back together, was for me, and this is not for everyone, but for me it was about giving back to others, it was about learning from my experience. And there’s lots of different ways you can do that. You can become a peer support worker yourself, you can get involved in trying to raise awareness. I do a lot of media work, sharing my story, so sharing my lived experience. And I think there’s now a number of ways that you can sort of connect with other men and find ways to tell your story in helpful ways.

 

And also I got involved in working with other dads in terms of trying to change some of the social policy around what happens when mums and dads separate. So that was how I did it. But in the first instance, I would say before you try and fix the world, get yourself sorted out first, that’s the best thing you can do for your kids is get yourself sorted out first and get access to help and support and be okay to just surrender to that and accept it.

 

Mateship, connection, supporting each other, these things that are real for so many men, how can we extend the awareness of the support available by men for men? We seem to not do that very well, don’t you think?

Yeah. There’s a real challenge in modern society, in countries like Australia, the UK, America, where we’re seeing what’s being coined a friendship recession, or what we call in Australia, the mateship recession, where the number of blokes that have got close friends is shrinking. And so a common experience is that men either have limited social connections or in extreme cases, no social connections. I think about one in five Australian men say they have no friends or family to rely on if they need support. You can stumble through life, okay, dealing with different small challenges without other people, you can be a very successful lone wolf. But when you hit some serious troubles in life, then not having that support can really work against you. The upside is that in the last few years, we’ve seen a massive upswell in the number of local based groups that are starting up to sort of, in some ways, address this. So you got initiatives like the Man Walk or Mr. Perfect Barbecues or the Men’s table or the Tough Guy book club. These are all projects that run by Blokes. For Blokes. They’re pretty much always free or very low cost, and they just bring blokes together around activities.

They’re like going for a walk on a Friday night, having a barbecue in the park, getting together in a pub over a couple of beers and chatting about a book they’ve read. And we can all start to think about putting those social connections in place through things like that. Plus, we’ve also find that a lot of men actually will say that they’ve lost contact with close friends over over the last 10, 20, 30 years. Most of us probably have people in our network who would be delighted to be part of our life, but we’ve just lost contact with them because we’ve got busy with family, we’ve got busy with work, we have moved location. So actively trying to reconnect and reach out to people who already know you and actually know you and your history well is an important thing to do. But, yeah, it’s another of these things, which is a two way process. It’s not just about putting the pressure on men to resolve this problem. This is a social problem. So we need to be putting more supports in place, making more people aware of just how important social connection is to our mental health and well being, just for life in general.

Not for when you’re in crisis, but just for life in general. And we’re starting to see a surge of that at the moment. But I think we need to do more in the way that Australia created the Mensheds movement. 25 years ago, there was three, four, a dozen, 2030 Mensheds springing up around the country. There’s now more Mensheds in Australia than there are McDonald’s. There’s over 1300 menshed. And we need similar groups for men of different ages to help us help men build better social connections. So in times of crisis, they’ve got support around them.

As a dad yourself, and a man who has dedicated so many years to caring for the health of other men in all its forms, are you able to share some examples of how early intervention and prevention efforts have made a positive impact on your life?

Yeah, I tend to talk in general about what works for other people, and the moment I get asked a question like this, I go, no, I can’t think of any examples. But I have sort of dwelled on this a little bit. And I thought, two really small examples of early intervention, which made the biggest difference. I talked about my close friend who was a big support to me, and I’m also going to talk about my GP at the time in London, in England. One of the ways that separation impacted me was I really started drinking and smoking to excessive amounts. And one of the ways I started to talk with my mates was that we used to get a bottle of vodka and we demolished the bottle of vodka over several hours and we would talk to the early hours in the morning. And there came a point where he said, I can’t keep doing this, I’ve got to go to work in the morning. It was all right to do it once. And I remember pouring a drink with him and going, Right, come on, let’s have a chat. And he went, I can’t do it, but you can have a drink.

 

And I looked at it and I went, no, this is silly, isn’t it? I shouldn’t have to drink to talk. And so I pulled the drink away and we carried on talking. So that was a little early nudge where he sort of nudged my behavior. But my GP was even better because I went to the GP and I decided that what I needed was sleeping tablets. I can’t cope. I’ve got to go through divorce, separation, I’m smoking and I’m drinking, I’m stressed, I can’t focus for work, I can’t sleep, probably. Can I just have some sleeping tablets to knock me out, please? I wanted to make myself unconscious, right? And I just mean in a practical day to day way here, just for 24 hours, please. And he listed everything I said, and rather than just writing your prescription, he said, yeah, this is all very concerning. The thing I’m really concerned about most, actually, is, how much are you drinking? And he did a brief drinking intervention on me and he said, Right, look, no sleeping tablets, but go away for a week. I want you to keep a diary of how much you’re drinking and come back to see me next week.

And that little nudge was enough for me to sort of go, oh, hang on, I could be heading on a difficult pathway here. So those weren’t complicated interventions. And I think sometimes we try and think of really big, massive solutions that are required to fix difficult social problems, when actually, if more people in the system, in our communities, in our lives were looking out for us and just giving us little nudges in the right direction, then we would help resolve a lot of problems. It might not be the first nudge, but by the third or fifth or 6th nudge, we would help more people find a healthier path through life’s challenges and crises. But if we’re not aware of a problem at a systemic level and a cultural level, then people don’t know to make those nudges. So we’re aware of alcohol. So I got nudged from an alcohol perspective, what I didn’t get nudged to by my GP was to a support line or a support group for separated dads. And so, in terms of early intervention, I go back to the point I made right at the very beginning of this conversation, which is that family separation, it’s a structural issue.

We shouldn’t see it as an individual issue, and we need to get better at society is recognizing that men in general can be vulnerable. Of all the vulnerable groups of men, one of the most vulnerable is separated dads. And the only way we will get proper early intervention for separated dads is if every part of the system and every part of our community acknowledges and accepts that’s the problem is aware of the kind of support that’s out there, and there’s more people nudging separated dads into support, into great support, like dad’s interest.

Thanks so much for your time today, Glenn.

 

Are you a separating parent or grandparent in need of support? Are you facing child access and family law issues? Do you work in the area of family support? Join some of Australia’s leading experts in family law, child access and situational distress, along with lived, experienced mums and dads for a far reaching and compelling discussion on Parental Alienation Awareness Day, October 12, 2023. To register. Go to Parentsbeyondbreakup.com Conference 2023.

 

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