Divorce and the kids who live it

Earlier this year the husband of a dear friend of mine asked her for a divorce.  When she told me, I was devastated for her and her girls.  We are family friends, our daughters are very close and it was very painful to watch their family embark upon this difficult journey.   I remember the day that my friend was telling her kids about the divorce. I was sick to my stomach.  I was keenly aware of the moment that these beautiful young girls’ lives were going to change forever.  Nearly six months later, I can honestly say that they are doing well. It hasn’t been easy, but the girls are thriving, seem to be happy and are adjusting to their new normal.

I have worked with many many families treading the various paths of  divorce. There are many phases to this process and they are often played out in the therapy sessions:   the couple is thinking about divorce or one party of a couple wants the divorce, they separate but remain in the same home, one moves out, they tell the kids, sometimes there are re-marriages, step-parents, new babies etc.  There is no one way to do divorce; each family is unique in their process and yet, so very similar all in the same breath.

I worked with an 8th grader several years ago whose parents got divorced when she was three.  She had recently had her Bat Mitzvah and shortly afterwards became depressed, withdrawn and began therapy with me.  One of the things that she was most sad about was taking the family photographs during her Bat Mitzvah. She was torn and saddened by the fact that she didn’t have a “family” picture of her nuclear family. By this time there was a step-mother and step-siblings and my client was grieving the loss of her notion of the ideal family.

I met with a  sixteen year old girl just this week who has lived with her dad for years and had visitation with her mom.  She is currently reassessing her living situation, thinking about spending more time at her mom’s, but isn’t sure what will be best.  In between her tears she said “I wish they would just decide and tell me where to go, so I don’t have to make the decision”.  She feels pressure to please both parents and is struggling to figure how to find her voice and do what is best for her.  I listened, watched her wipe her tears and tried to empower her to be true to herself and her needs and not feel that she has to continue to take care of the adults, but learn to take care of herself.

I am glad that I can be there for these kids, my clients.  It is always beneficial for children and adolescents to have an adult separate from their parents with whom they can talk and share on an intimate level. Often a teacher, another relative , a sports coach or a therapist  are the adults that kids go to to unload their feelings and concerns.  For kids in divorced families, it is even more essential that they have unbiased adults who can listen.  They need an adult to be able to confide in,  someone they feel is not on mom’s or dad’s side, an adult who they don’t have to  protect or censor their feelings from and  someone that can hear them without any hidden agendas like custody issues or  personal wounds.

Kids are resilient.  Divorce can be complicated and difficult, and yet with good support and parents putting the kids’ needs before their own hurt and resentment, their children can thrive socially, emotionally and academically.

This fall I will be co-facilitating a group for families of divorce with my colleague Rona Hitlin-Mason.   The group will have two components;  I will be meet with the kids while Ms. Hitlin-Mason meets with the adults.  After the first hour, we will reconvene as one large group and spend the last half-hour processing together.  For more details, please see the flyer below:

Coming Together:

A Group for Parents and their Children About Divorce

 

Join us to discuss how to ride the waves of divorce and come out on the other side standing strong and feeling hopeful

   Parents

  • What is the emotional impact of divorce for my family?
  • How do I co-parent with my former spouse?
  • Developmentally, what should I be expecting from my children?
  • Meet other parents in similar situations and learn about resources

     Children:

  • How do I stay steady when my life is changing?
  • Figuring out my “new normal”
  • Where am I sleeping this weekend and will I get to see my friends?
  • Why are they STILL fighting?

      Format:

  • 6 group sessions: Tuesday nights October 2-November 6, 7-8:30
  • A parents’ group led by Rona Hitlin-Mason, LPC
  • A children’s group (11-14 yrs.– call if  questions) led by Laurie Levine, LCSW
  • The groups will meet separately for 1 hour then gather together for the last 30 minutes
  • $65  per session  for a parent and a child; $375 if paid in full at first session ($10/session for each additional child in a family)
  • 461 Carlisle Drive, Herndon, VA 20170

Contact :  Rona Hitlin-Mason 703-437-7600  Laurie Levine 703-795-9089

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