For over 50 years OnePlusOne has been a leading relationships charity, specialising in creating evidence-based early intervention resources to help people develop, maintain, and strengthen relationships with the people in their lives. It has recently been awarded funding from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to develop an app to support separating parents.
As readers here will know, the breakdown of a relationship is rarely easy. Dividing a shared home into two separate lives brings many emotional, practical and financial challenges, particularly when there are children involved.
Faced with such turmoil, it is perhaps not surprising that so many people turn to mediation or family law services to help them navigate the process of separation. When a person is not emotionally ready to cope with the range of issues separation involves, or if they lack the skills to maintain a healthy co-parenting relationship beyond the breakdown of their couple relationship, they may look to experts for advice.
“Relational capability for all” is at the heart of OnePlusOne’s vision. We believe that everyone should have the knowledge and skills they need to form, maintain, and strengthen relationships with the people in their lives. We’re working to achieve this by creating evidence-based early intervention resources designed to help people recognise the impact of their own behaviour, and develop communication skills and coping strategies so that they can resolve conflict constructively.
We share Resolution’s belief that non-confrontational approaches produce better outcomes for separating families and their children. Knowing how to argue well, and how to resolve conflict constructively, is important in any relationship. Our work is dedicated to helping people learn these skills and apply them to any of their relationships.
Research shows that children exposed to harmful parental conflict can suffer from long-term negative effects to their development and wellbeing. This is true regardless of whether parents are together or separated, and it highlights the importance of early intervention support.
We’re proud to be working with over 90 local authorities across England and Wales to deliver our early intervention support to families. By applying the latest relationship research to our knowledge of behaviour change theory, we have created three digital interventions. Each one is designed to help parents cope with the challenges they may face at different stages in their relationship:
- Me, You and Baby Too is focused on the transition to parenthood. It has been shown to improve couple relationship satisfaction and significantly lower parental conflict.
- Arguing Better helps to raise awareness of parental conflict and the impact it has on children. Parents completing this course are equipped with the skills they need to cope with stress together and manage conflict constructively.
- Getting it right for children is designed to help separating parents minimise the impact of their separation on their children. It uses Behaviour Modelling Training techniques to show how children can end up in the middle of parental conflict, and helps parents develop positive communication skills so that they can put in place effective co-parenting solutions that work in the best interests of their children.
Combined with our professional training for practitioners, which gives those working with families the skills they need to use these interventions confidently, our digital interventions are helping thousands of families with their relationships.
Following a successful bid to the DWP’s Reducing Parental Conflict Challenge Fund 2, we will further extend our support for separating parents with the creation of an app which will help them to self-manage the separation process.
Separating better will provide parents with emotional and practical support in a single dedicated app. Building on the success of our Getting it right for children course and our research into emotional readiness, it will offer a sustainable and accessible solution to help parents learn how to communicate better, resolve disagreements and work through the practical steps of separation towards healthy co-parenting.
The Separating better app will feature OnePlusOne’s Emotional Adaptation to Relationship Dissolution Assessment (EARDA). This scale provides a reliable measurement of emotional readiness, which research has shown has a significant impact on a person’s ability to reduce conflict and make effective co-parenting arrangements.
Adding this measurement into the app will help to identify the level of support an individual might need, depending on the stage they are at in their separation journey.
The app will offer practical tools to help parents manage many aspects of separation such as budgeting, legal arrangements, and a personalised parenting plan. We will also use our expertise in Digital Behaviour Change Interventions to create new evidence-based video lessons to equip parents with vital conflict resolution and communication skills.
From our previous work creating seeitdifferently.org we know how powerful videos can be at encouraging people to reflect on their actions and make positive changes. We are looking forward to creating even more scenarios for families to relate to.
We hope that the support, knowledge, and skills offered by the app will help to reduce the pressure on the family court system. Where additional support may be needed, further expert advice will initially be offered through National Family Mediation, who will be available via a live digital chat service within the app.
To further support the project’s research aims, a small sample of parents will be offered mediation outside of the app.
We’re currently in the co-creation stage of this project, speaking with parents who have been through a separation to find out what support they wish they had available at the time, or found most helpful. We’re always keen to hear from professionals working in this space, so if you’d like to know more about the project, please reach out to us on the email below.
The app will be piloted towards the end of the year before going live in the spring of 2024 with a full evaluation built into the project from the start.