A CHILD’S PROMISE
I can help myself figure out how I feel.
I know that if I stop and think I’m going to have a better chance of knowing what to do.
I’m going to find a quiet zone.
I’m going to write in a journal.
I’m going to find someone to talk to.
I’m going to find something to do that’s just for me.
I know I might get lost from time to time.
and Things may go up and down, but I know in the end I’m going to be okay.
Parents normally see teenagers as the one group that is most affected by divorce. Personally I disagree, I think teenagers are the simply the most outspoken group. All kids are affected by their parents’ divorce.
In their defense, teenagers are one step short of adulthood. They are thinking of college, entering military service or simply just getting out on their own. Teenagers don’t want to get dragged down in your problems. Teenagers have enough of their own.
At Kids First Parents Second we can give provide teenagers with some basic tips and coping skills. We can use journals and help teenagers manage thought and emotions. We can educate teenagers on the problems their peers have faced after divorce. We help teenagers learn how to better adjust to conflict so they can avoid losing the relationship of one or both of their parents.
It’s really hard to fool a teenager, they can pretty much figure out and dissect every exchange that you have between their divorcing parents. The research shows that teenagers are affected by the way their parent’s cooperate /fail to cooperate with one another. So if your a parent who constantly fights with your ex, don’t be surprised to see your teenager acting out.
Kids First Parents second agrees with the concept of having your adolescent have an active voice in how his or her life will be affected by the divorce. This child should be allocated certain fundamental rights in order that he or she can continue with the life they are wanting to enjoy. Teenagers, especially older teenagers shouldn’t be fought over, there’s little sense in a custody dispute over a 16, 17 or 18 year old.
Together, we can create a working environment that allows teenagers to survive the divorce process but it will require work, patience and to some degree, much needed patience.
A shoe box apparently is a powerful tool to help kids. We have talked about using the shoe box before as a memory box where kids can keep memories of good times alive, or to keep memories alive for that special family member that was lost. PBS went one step further….with a box in, box out approach, kids are able to post images of how they want the outside world to perceive them, and an inside box on how they truly feel inside. The box in box out approach has been used to help kids who suffer from depression.
Why not use this approach to help pre-teens and teens during divorce. Obviously the same issues are there and obviously the same pain is there. No one truly wants to know how these kids are feeling are terrified to try and embrace them. Why not use the box in, box out approach when helping your teenager who is involved in his or her parents divorce?
Mediation was the perfect solution to reduce the onslaught of litigation that came down to the courthouse. Most cases were extremely successful in reaching a resolution through this alternate dispute technique. Court’s and attorney’s have seized on the concept of mediation in family law cases to come end family law disputes.
If you do not teach people how to communicate, you have not resolved a family law dispute, you have only caused a cease fire in the manner that parents engage one another. For some high conflict parents, cease fire arrangements are needed, but what about for the remainder of the parents involved in the family law disputes?
Mediation is normally done in two separate rooms, the parties talk to their attorney and to the mediator. The parents do not talk among themselves during a mediation. Parents reach an agreement and are told to interact and play nice with another after. We simply are not teaching parents how to communicate with one another. These communication skills must be taught, and they must be worked on over time if the parents have any chance of peacefully interacting with one another to co-parent their kids.
Why am I harping on this anyway? Kids are affected when their parents do not now how to communicate and constantly stay in conflict. Parents inability to communicate and engage in conflict is a major source of why kids suffer after divorce. WHAT ARE WE DOING to help parent’s learn how to co-parent after divorce..
I would want a client who is motivated to settle and has tried to communicate with the other parent. I would want my parent to have the ability to do everything they could to resolve as many issues with their ex as they could BEFORE walking into the mediation room. I want a client who has gone to parent education classes and is trying to sort out as many disputes as they can through the assistance of a parent facilitator/parent coordinator. Parents who have the skills to communicate will be better able to meet the needs of their kids during and after divorce. Parents exposed to a parent facilitator/parent coordinator would have an additional resources to resolve their family law dispute. It should not be attorney first parent second, it should be kids first parents second, right?
I constantly see updates in the news talking about how interest groups are pushing for split custody arrangements. Dad’s need equal time and should not be seen as lesser parents. Equal time means equal rights. Split custody arrangements mean that we won’t have conflicts in court and kids will not be used as a instrument of one parent’s hatred toward the other.
Custody arrangements should be ultimately what’s best for the kid’s, right?. So what do kid’s need? Kids need parent’s who can better communicate and work through problems. Kids need parents’ who co-parent. Kids need parent’s who don’t put them in the middle.
So think before you leap. If your going to implement shared custody arrangements you better include required parenting classes on how best to educate parent’s on the art of communicating. You better also assess parent’s ability to coparent and have a fail safe system in place to restructure custody arrangements when the parent’s maintain high conflict and create an unstable environment for the child. It’s not parent’s first, it’s kids first, right?
A rather recent development in divorce workshops for parent’s is education programs designed to help kids in divorce. The workshops teach parent’s how to help their kids during this difficult time period. On its’ face the program seems to have tremendous benefits. I’ve even heard about workshops that teach parent’s how to use m&m’s to entice kids to talk about their feelings. Having done a few kids seminar’s myself I’ll tell you what I think:
1. Kids are not Lab Animals: The M&M strategy sounds like something Pavlov came up with. Hit the button so many times and you are rewarded with a prize. Kids are not stupid, they’ll be looking at each other and feel motivated to say certain things to get certain candies. Perhaps I want a red candy, well then I’ll just say some stuff to get me to that particular piece of candy. (As a major fan of candy I’ll tell you that not all m&m’s taste the same). Captain obvious would say bravo, you’ve accomplished nothing other than establishing a way to alienate your connection with these kids about their true feelings.
2. Parent’s should be the last option: Kid’s don’t want to share feelings with their parent’s during divorce. Kids want to please parent’s and tell them everything is okay. Kids will put on a happy face and just bury what’s going on. Parent’s area going to have some ability to talk to their kids but your potential for success is rather limited. Kids need a safe haven, someone they can trust and talk to. Kids need anonymity, they need to know what they are saying is kept private and outside the range of their parent’s ears. Kids can not tell one parent one thing without the fear that it will effect the other. Kids do not want to disappoint their parent’s who are divorcing.
If you want to know why kids have long term issues after divorce it is because they are constantly told that their feelings do not matter. Putting parent’s in as the first and last resort to help kids share their feelings is simply wrong. Kids need much better.
[ Kids who enter our classes are scared and are angry. We have some kids standing on chairs not knowing what to say because they don’t even know what they are thinking. These kids look hopeless and fearful that their parent’s marriage is ending. When their parent’s come up to them after the class they embrace their parent’s, tell them everything is okay and then simply go. I worry for these kids and I worry what will happen to them years later when they reach their teens and early adulthood.]
At our workshops we have one rule – what is said in our class STAYS in our class. Kids works are done with the protection of anonymity and not sent back to the parent’s for interrogation purposes. Simply put, we need to put the kids needs first, not the parent’s.