Most people would agree that support groups for adults and children who are dealing with the stress and crisis of separation and divorce is a good thing. The benefits are well known, including:
- Providing a sounding board
- Helping to put our own problems in perspective
- Providing us with a diversity of ideas for problem solving
- Holding us accountable in accomplishing our goals
- Providing education and teaching coping strategies related to our stressors
- Fundamentally reminding us that we are not alone
Even with all of these benefits, convincing ourselves, let alone our kids or adolescents, that attending a group is a good thing can be tough. Since most parents would agree that it is good for their kids, let’s start there.
School age children are generally open to new ideas, and because they are accustomed to working in groups at school or during extracurricular activities, they are often more willing to try a group. However, knowing how to talk to your child about starting a group can be tricky. Here are some tips:
- Try to stay positive and upbeat. Let your child know that lots of kids are going through what they are going through and that it is a good thing to be able to come together and help one another.
- Emphasize that the group won’t necessarily be sad and mopey. Most well designed divorce adjustment groups for children provide fun and interesting activities to keep kids engaged while they learn and share with one another.
- Give your kids all of the facts about the support group: how long it will last, what they will be expected to do, who will be leading the group (it’s best if they can meet the leader/s before the group starts), and how many kids will be in the group. The group leaders may want them to attend a pre-group interview in which they prepare the children by giving them information about the group, and they also use that time to get to know your child and learn about potential challenges for him or her.
- Remind quieter children that they will not be forced to talk or participate in anything that is uncomfortable for them. Knowing that they are in charge of their level of participation can help. However, do encourage them to open up and participate when they are ready.
For tweens and teens, the name of the game is often, “because I said so.” After trying the above “positive approach” it may be necessary to assert your authority as a parent, and say “I understand that you don’t really want to do this, but I would like you to try.” Most tweens and teens and even some elementary age kids will initially shy away and say no to something that is unfamiliar and new. Expect this, but try not to let it deter you. Also, don’t always expect a positive response to “how was group?” Even if they find it helpful they may not admit that.
Finally, the best way to get your child to be open to attending group is to lead by example. There is no better way to show your kids that a support group is a helpful tool than by attending a group yourself. Be open. Share with your kids, in an age-appropriate manner, that working through tough times in life is an active process that often requires taking some risks and even facing our fears. Because, ultimately, by reaching out to people who really know what you are going through, true healing can happen.
The Center For Out-of-Court Divorce (COCD) offers support groups for adults and children of all ages. You can participate in support groups at COCD even if you are not enrolled as a client. If you would like to find out more, please contact us at 720-608-3052, or email email@example.com.