A Child Of Divorce
I have worked with children, teens, parents and families for 25 years…and counting! And I know for certain that my work has been directly connected to experiences of my own childhood.
I can remember how confused I felt when my father would come to visit me as a young girl. My parents had divorced when I was quite young and there was still strong feelings of animosity, especially from my father. I only saw my father 4 or 5 times a year so when he did come to take me out for lunch, it was an exciting event for me! My mother would invite him to sit at the kitchen table where she served him tea in a china cup and saucer, an Irish tradition. Sitting on the floor, observing their interaction, I can still remember feeling so confused. They talked about me, my mother gave a detailed overview regarding my school progress and friends etc. They talked about the weather as well … but somehow I didn’t think they liked each other…and I was right!
You see, it was in the early 1970’s when divorce was not openly discussed or socially acceptable. There were very few resources for families that divorced at that time. My mother and father tried their best to support me during this difficult time but they didn’t have a handbook or program that could guide them. One area that distressed me was sharing my feelings and asking questions about my parent’s divorce. I discovered that I needed to be careful what I told my father about my mother. Quite often he would criticize her and become angry. That was a terrible feeling…I didn’t like my father saying nasty things about my mother. When I tried to talk with my mother and tell her how much I missed my father, she would express guilt and would cry. That wasn’t helpful either. I continued to filter what I said to both parents when it concerned the other one, for many, many years…well into my adulthood. I was determined to use my experiences from childhood to help children. And so one of the lasting, positive outcomes of my childhood challenges was to share my compassion and understanding with children and their families.
Thank goodness today divorce is more accepted in our society. Unfortunately it also means that it occurs more often. There are more and more resources available for children and parents of separation and divorce. However, many professionals run the other way when they are asked to work with a family going through divorce. Many of these cases are immediately labelled as very challenging and messy. As a therapist and parent coach, this important work is a challenge and an opportunity for me to help families cope and strengthen their skills as they redefine their family. Children have an opportunity to have a voice…to share how they feel in a safe, supportive environment.
Recently, I was introduced to a new program created by Bill Eddy from the High Conflict Institute. He developed New Ways For Families which is a structured parenting skills method intended to reduce the impact of conflict on the children in potentially high-conflict divorce and separation. I really believe in this program. It is very effective in calming emotions and creating more effective communication skills. Giving children a voice and effective co-parenting are two important outcomes from New Ways For Families. I often think of how beneficial this would have been for me as a child of divorce.
If you would like to know more information on this program or the services I provide to children, teens and families, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also check out my website at www.insupportofchildren.com.
Wendy Hunter, Registered Psychotherapist.