Divorce and family breakdown is on the increase and it’s the children who are at the greatest risk from its most damaging effects. A new book from ex Manchester United and England goalkeeper, Gary Bailey, aims to change all that.
When Gary’s own marriage hit the rocks in 2006, he was clear that he didn’t want his children to get caught in the middle. Six years on, and things are working pretty well. His new book, Gary Bailey’s Divorce for Dads, aims to offer the benefit of that experience and help dads make the right choices for their kids.
“I’d witnessed the terrible impact of divorce on kids first hand,” says Gary. “I’ve no doubt that those parents didn’t intend to bring this pain on their children but, equally, I have no doubt that the damage is an inevitable consequence if parents lose sight of what their kids need during the turmoil.”
But he argues that the support and information that dads require is often not available and that, without the right kind of advice, it’s all too easy for things to go wrong. That’s what inspired him to write the book.
“I’d seen the damage inflicted on children during a divorce, and how the support structures from both family and friends only seem to inflame the situation. I felt there needed to be some easy to read and accessible book that outlined a solution that would protect the children as much as possible.”
The book looks at the impact of divorce on fathers and on children. It offers tips on dealing with difficult situations and how to help children adjust. It also offers practical solutions to common problems such as how to communicate better and how to reach amicable agreements. But, Gary argues, the book isn’t just for dads.
“It’s written from a dads perspective, but it isn’t just aimed at dads. If your brother or son or colleague is going through a divorce then the book will give you all the information and advice you need to help them to get it right for their kids. And, if you’re a mum, it’ll help you to understand what’s going on for your kids’ dad.” says Gary.
The book is written with Nick Woodall who has years of experience working directly with separated families in the United Kingdom as well as writing extensively on the subject. Gary saw Nick’s book, Putting Children First, when he was travelling on a soccer related trip in London. The title was one that he’d had in mind for a book for some time.
“So I reckoned, why not team up with Nick to do the book?” says Gary. “His philosophy was exactly right for the book I had in mind. It’s all about dealing with your own hurt and anger so that it doesn’t get in the way of good decision making. We wanted to produce a book that gave dads all the information they needed and in a way that was accessible to them.”
And Nick was delighted when Gary approached him about the book.
“It can be difficult for men,” explains Nick. “We’re taught from an early age that we have to stay strong and in control. And that’s fine, but sometimes we need a little help, too. It’s important that a guy like Gary, a successful man who’s played soccer at the very highest level, talks about his experiences and says to men that, actually, it is okay to ask for a little support every once in a while. But, more than that, it’s about arming yourself with the right kind of information and the right tools and strategies so that you get it right for your kids”
It’s clear that Gary is passionate about the subject and that he wants to help other dads through the difficult process of divorce or family separation. When his own family separated, the first thing he did was draw up a letter stating that everything that he and their children’s mum did would put the children first. They both signed it and committed to making the divorce process as smooth as possible. He also knew that he wanted to continue to play a full and active part in raising his three children.
“I have always been very close to my kids,” says Gary “and I really believe they are the greatest gift we can receive in our lives. Seeing the love we have as a family, and the wonderful sense of bonding that my kids have between themselves and us as parents, I know they have a loving and solid foundation to build their lives on.”
But he acknowledges that it’s not all plain sailing. The hurt and anger that often accompanies a split can get in the way and make it difficult for parents to make sensible decisions. Without putting a brake on that, parents can cause children huge amounts of stress and anxiety. So, does he have a final message for dads who are going through divorce?
“Stay focused on helping the kids through the process,” advises Gary “If you think you’re stressed as an adult, try and imagine how scared they are when the two most important people in their lives are breaking apart! Seek help to deal with your emotions so that you feel more stable when your dealing with their mum. And, of course, follow the advice in the book !”
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