Kids Helping Kids Through Divorce
I have had the joy of helping a 7th-grader build a program to guide tweens through divorce. KIDS, or Kids Interested in Divorce Support, is the brainchild of Asher Schreiber, a 13-year-old who decided to create a support group for kids of divorce as his bar mitzvah community service project.
A student at Norup International School, Asher is a child of divorce himself. His parents split when he was 6, and he says he wishes he’d had someone objective other than his parents to help him through the transitions and evolutions of their family.
When his step-dad Dan came into the picture, he finally had someone not involved in the divorce who could offer him an objective perspective and an unbiased sounding board.
Asher wants to give that to other kids.
I happily volunteered to co-facilitate the group with Asher and a therapist named Henry Traurig. Unfortunately, despite avid marketing on Asher’s part, and expressed interest, no children showed up for the two meetings we scheduled to kick off the program.
We’re going to try a lunchtime meeting rather than after-school, in the hope that kids will feel comfortable stopping in since they’re already at school at that time.
The premise of the initiative is brilliant. There are, theoretically, lots of different professional adults to help kids weather their parents’ divorce.
But sometimes the best help comes from peers.
Asher’s vision is that he can relate to other kids who may be just starting the process, and by sharing his feelings and memories of what it was like for him, he can ease the stress and strain of his peers.
What a beautiful, selfless, big-hearted goal. I hope kids show up to our remaining sessions because this is an important initiative with so much potential to heal.
Dr. Phil offers tips for navigating the toll of a divorce on kids in his book, Family First: Your Step-by-Step Plan for Creating a Phenomenal Family. Some snippets from that follow here:
Above all else, children need acceptance. During a divorce, kids feel fragile, and they want approval because their sense of foundation and structure has shattered. They might also blame themselves. They need to know they are a priority and that no matter what, they are loved.
During divorce, children need to feel safe. While the family may breakup, the child needs to know there are still routines and familiar expectations.
As always, children need structure. They may push the limits at this time to see if their foundation is still solid. Parents need to continue parenting responsibly and show that nothing has changed except for minor transitions, like one parent living in another location. Although some room for adjustment when they go back and forth because those times will be most challenging for the children.
Buck up. Your child needs to see you as the strong, dependable role model in their life. That means, don’t cry in front of them, don’t blame their other parent, don’t share your stresses and anger with the kids. Assure your child that you will remain strong and they can rely on you.
Let kids be kids. It’s not their job to make you feel better. Don’t force them to handle adult issues. Encourage play, freedom and relaxation.