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.