For children of divorce, they can find themselves with an array of emotions. Many may look to blame themselves for the end of their parents’ marriage. Many may look to act out. Many may simple withdraw from their responsibilities and daily routine.
While every child may react differently to a parental divorce, steps are being taken to better help children who are experiencing the emotions of the situation.
Classes in Utah
In the state of Utah, a Divorce Education for Children class is available free for children ages 9 to 12 years old, whose parents have filed for divorce or who have divorced, according to the Utah state courts. This class is held in Logan, Provo, Ogden, and Salt Lake City and is a voluntary program that children are not required to attend.
According to the brochure, this class is to better inform children about the divorce process. It helps identify feelings common to children in divorce situations, while teaching communication skills to empower children to express their feelings. It covers the process, while emphasizing that the divorce is not the child’s fault.
The class is taught during the course of two hours by experienced mental health professionals who address the most common issues of children whose parents are divorcing. It helps them come up with various coping alternatives to better understand their own feelings.
This class can be seen as a resource to parents who are having a hard time helping their children understand what is occurring. Many parents have a lot on their plate during the divorce process and do not always give their child or children the emotional attention necessary to help them during this transitional period of their lives.
The Deseret News highlighted the story of 10-year-old Scott Hawkins, whose parents had gotten a divorce, causing him to behave out of character. According to his mother, Michelle, he seemed confused, perpetually anxious, and angry.
Scott was the only one old enough for the class, but after attending it, his personality seemed to have reverted back to the way he was. He was able to face the questions that his friends were asking him and face the fact that his mom and dad were divorcing. He had previously felt like he was not allowed to speak about it, but after the class he was able to open up and understand his feelings.
Many of the instructors, including 3rd District Court Commissioner Joana Sagers look to make the children who attend the class more comfortable by giving them a tour of the courtroom and facilities. This squashes the fears of many children, who look at the courtroom as a place where they will be forced to choose their father over their mother or their mother over their father.
The class is broken up into two parts. The first part includes events like this, where children are given the opportunity to feel more comfortable with the legal system by seeing the facilities first hand. The second half of the class is taught by a mental health professional, who helps the children understand how to talk about their feelings and thoughts surrounding the divorce.
They also are instructed to write a private letter as if they were talking to one or both of their parents. It is a letter that will not be delivered and is a method of expressing anything they want, in regards to the divorce.
Classes in Florida
Similar classes are required for children between the ages of 6 and 17 in Miami-Dade County Florida’s Eleventh Judicial Circuit. Both parents are required to attend a four hour parenting course, designed to help separating and divorcing couples focus on what is in the best interest of their children and how to work more cooperatively with each other. This does not require the spouses to attend together.
For the children of divorce of Miami-Dade County, they are required to attend a three and a half hour class that helps children feel more comfortable with sharing their thoughts and feelings about their parents’ divorce through role playing, drawing, and creative writing.
Although designed differently, these programs allow children of divorce the opportunity to experience their feelings in a healthy constructive method and in safe environments, designed for understanding and personal growth.