The POD Inaugural Blog: A Call to Action

The POD Inaugural Blog: A Call to Action

By Bill Schacht, MS, LCSW

“The most valuable organization you never wanted to join!”

The honest truth is that none of us want to be here.  What brings us here is our common experience of family separation and divorce – the challenges, the pain.  Although we all arrive here from different stories, distinct histories, we have many similar fears and a kindred spirit to do our best to recreate post-divorce life as happy and healthy for ourselves and our children.  We all want to get over “it” and move beyond “it.”

The negative impact of divorce on both adults and children is well documented and absolutely terrifying.  Web search illuminates countless reads on the subject.  There are also a gazillion articles and books on the cause of divorce, what to do to prevent divorce, parenting children of divorce, and any other aspect of divorce imaginable.

But, unbelievably, in our world of an increased divorce rate of 500% in the last 90 years and in a society where, of the next 10 children born in the United States  today, only two will be living with both of their parents by age 17, none of what has been written or read has made a difference.  Countless number of psychotherapy hours, sermons by clergy, classes by school counselors, or efforts by concerned family to intervene have not reversed the American epidemic of marriage failure and families broken apart.

Rightfully, we are all concerned about our futures.  We are told that 63% of second marriages fail, 73% of third marriages fail, and that our children of divorce marry less often and divorce more often than kids from intact families.

We are here to put an end to that.  We and our children are not willing to be statistics of this trend.  We are starting a movement; championing a worthwhile cause.

PEOPLE OF DIVORCE-The Association exists as a bold mission …

PEOPLE OF DIVORCE MISSION STATEMENT

To provide a facilitative voice, support, and

educational services to people of divorce

so that they have the opportunity to express

their potential, enjoy life to the fullest,

and never experience the pain of divorce again.

I dare to imagine our success.  Can you?  What if you committed to learn whatever you needed to learn, change whatever you needed to change, and do whatever you needed to do and experienced the success of never divorcing again, your children never experiencing another divorce, and your grandchildren never being touched by divorce?  Would your efforts be worthwhile?

The POD Association (The POD) will provide resources and a network of support to help us be successful.

Every great journey begins with a first step.  We as individuals and as a community have taken it.  We are here and we will take the next step and the next and the next…

Join us.  The value of what we will accomplish together cannot be grasped by our imagination today.

Is this blog relevant to your life experience as a person of divorce?  LEAVE A REPLY below and tell us more.  Does this blog provide information that will help you achieve your goal of never divorcing again?  Will you post further comments or ask questions about this blog on The POD social network?  Did this blog provide information that will cause you to take action?  Let us know, below…

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The POD Association: Who We Are, What We Are

The POD Association: Who We Are, What We Are

by Bill Schacht, MS, LCSW

 I am asked, “Bill, who should join PEOPLE OF DIVORCE – The Association?”

So, who are we?  We are people who have, ourselves, gone through family separation or divorce.  We are children of divorce.  We are parents involved in our child’s divorce process.  We are grandparents trying to navigate our grandchildren through family collapse.  We are other relatives, friends, and colleagues who want to be there to support us, the people of divorce.

We are professionals from the school systems, the court systems, community health, behavioral health and physical health care, and government who provide services to adults and children in separation and divorce.

Over the past 5 years I have spoken to thousands of PEOPLE OF DIVORCE (POD).  I always ask one question, “Do you ever want to go through divorce again?”  All responses are a firm, “No.”

All professionals supporting POD have heartfelt desire to help us in whatever way they can to rise above the pain and challenges of divorce and provide support so our pattern will not be duplicated.

What defines our membership is shared commitment to enlighten and educate ourselves to what, specifically, caused our marriage relationships to become broken and to make the changes needed to not duplicate the pattern.  We have promised our children that we will educate ourselves and them about what defines healthy and joyful relationship that can sustain long-term commitment.  We promise our children that we will be good mentors and coaches as they are of age to date and pursue life partners to ensure successful mate selection and relationship growth and development.

As members, we understand that this is neither a simple nor easy endeavor.  We know it will take dedicated time and great perseverance.   We realize this is far from reading one book and doing it alone.  Rather, we acknowledge that to achieve our goal requires life-long learning and a solid support system.

As helping professionals supporting The POD, we know we cannot only focus on fixing what is broken, but that we must provide education and support that leads to the creation of loving healthy long-term relationships by our members and their children.

We all understand our mission is not about talk and theory; we will only succeed through effective, consistent action, individually, and as an Association.

Finally, all members of PEOPLE OF DIVORCE – The Association believe that, as a community, as a culture, as a society, as a nation, we cannot continue to have our marriages, our critical family relationships continue to fail at current rates.  The costs, the consequences will be too much.

As you register to become a POD member, you will be asked to identify your specific member category as below:

General Membership Categories (you will check all that apply)

______  Marriage Divorced

______  Marriage Annulled

______  Marriage Separation

______  Adult Child of Divorce (18 or older)

______  Parent of a divorcing/divorced child

______  Grandparent of a child in family separation or divorce

______  Other family member (i.e. uncle/aunt, cousin, etc.)

______  Friend of a POD

______  Colleague/co-worker of a POD

 

Professional Member Categories

______  Family Law Attorney

______  Guardian Ad Litem

______  Family Court Judge

______  Family Court Clerk

______  Psychologists

______  Marriage Counselor

______  Social Worker

______  Psychotherapist

______  Life Coach

______  Guidance Counselor

______  Teacher

______  School Administrator

______  Physician

______  Health Care Provider (other)

______  Clergy

______  Pastoral Counselor

______  Community Health Director

______  Other __________________________

Did this blog provide information that will cause you to take action? LEAVE A REPLY below and tell us more. Does this blog provide information that will help you achieve your goal of never divorcing again? Will you post further comments or ask questions about this blog on The POD social network? Is this blog relevant to your life experience as a person of divorce? Let us know, below…

The Structure of the Association: A Seedling Today, A Driving Force Tomorrow

The Structure of the Association: A Seedling Today, A Driving Force Tomorrow

by Bill Schacht, MS, LCSW

As 60,000,000 People of Divorce, we exist as the largest subset of the American population, bar gender.  As one voice, our potential to effect change and create good is beyond what we can imagine today.  United, we can be a potent economic and political influence – even greater than organizations like the NRA and National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship.

To harness and guide our potential, we have initially structured PEOPLE OF DIVORCE – The Association to secure a rapidly growing membership, provide immediate educational and resource benefit, and get us talking to one another about what we need and is important to us.

We will only fulfill our mission by being a membership driven organization.  Those of us who created The POD bring early leadership, insights, and teachings.  But, immediately, each and every member will be encouraged and given opportunities to communicate to The Association his/her needs and wants.  From these we will expand and evolve as an increasingly valuable resource.

And, we must start somewhere.

We open as a web based community.  Our website is anchored around a blog which will post 2 weekly entries: one of interest to all POD’s, another specific to POD’s with children (35% of American divorces involve children under the age of 18).

The membership will be given weekly Forum topics which will promote dialogue amongst the membership and creating questions for the professional experts on the topics.

We will conduct short polls of the membership consistent with blog and forum topics.

Members will have access to an expanding list of more extensive surveys to gather in depth awareness of members’ desire for educational opportunities and support resources.

The POD contained social network, a similar structure to Facebook, becomes the immediate resource to post needs and wants and create member groups with common, specific needs.  We will share what we have learned about what works and what does not work in facing POD challenges.  For example, A POD single dad who is raising an autistic 10 year old asked how he could begin networking with other POD’s facing the same parenting challenges.

The website opens with posted articles and links to other sites and articles of interest on the internet.

In Wisconsin, PEOPLE OF DIVORCE, LLC is already locally presenting a 4-hour Parents’ Seminar called “KIDS-IN-A-BREAK: Providing Necessary Support for Your Child of Divorce.”  Soon, this seminar will be available to members on The Association website.

A 5-session; 10 hour course for children, ages 8-17,in family separation and divorce, “KIDS-IN-A-BREAK” is also being offered through the Recreation Departments in three Wisconsin communities.  Our plans for a POD kids’ educational web site will be shared in a forthcoming blog.

The POD is a nationwide, grassroots initiative.  Our best potential for membership growth is through word-of-mouth and viral.  Our ability to expand services and resources will be directly correlated to our membership numbers.

We can best make a difference by engaging in our web site offerings, posting our want and needs and our impressions of information being posted on The Association site.

And, to get this off and running, we will benefit by getting anyone and everyone we know who has felt the pain of divorce to join our Association.  Not only our peers, but also the professionals: our attorneys, local school staff, clergy, mental health providers, doctors, financial advisors, government officials.

We will do much good as a membership of 5,000.  We will do unbelievable good as a membership of 5,000,000+.

Together and communicating, we can do so much.  For today, we will do what we can.

Our next blog will present a long-term vision of The POD Association future.

Did this blog provide information that will cause you to take action? LEAVE A REPLY below and tell us more. Does this blog provide information that will help you achieve your goal of never divorcing again? Will you post further comments or ask questions about this blog on The POD social network? Is this blog relevant to your life experience as a person of divorce? Let us know, below…

A Long-Term Vision for PEOPLE OF DIVORCE – The Association

A Long-Term Vision for PEOPLE OF DIVORCE – The Association

by Bill Schacht, MS, LCSW

In the long run, what will make it worth it?  Why should people of divorce invest time and energy to come together anyway?  Please, seriously ask yourself these questions.

What if, over next 20 years, we reduce the number of potential future divorces of our members, our kids, and our grandchildren by 50%?   Would that be good enough?   What if our influence expanded to where our initiatives produced a 25% reduction divorces in the USA?  What if, through our efforts, we significantly reduced that amount of parent alienation that occurs in some divorces and significantly reduces the number of cases in which child support is not paid?

What if we reduced the divorce rate of second marriages from 65% to 20% and from 73% to 10% of third marriages?

What would be good enough for us to engage and act?

Our potential exists in being not only committing to our own futures as PEOPLE OF DIVORCE, but also to be as committed to supporting others of our kind.   We realize that the American Cancer Society, the Alzheimer’s Association and such have power in their numbers and initiatives.

There are plenty of divorce-related web sites that provide information and advice.  How to survive this, what to do when that.  But, information that is fragmented and only snippets that do not create a systematic plan of action and generate needed support to initiate and sustain real change become just fading thought.

The vision of PEOPLE OF DIVORCE – The Association is to educate and support all of us to act upon all the aspects of family separation and divorce that can negatively impact our lives and the lives of our children and other family members.   Our educational services will be an organized system that helps us completely understand what causes divorce and what we need to do to create and sustain loving, healthy, committed relationships as we move forward.  We will define effective, collaborative parenting from two households and educate ourselves on how to consistently deliver that parenting.

In the future, PEOPLE OF DIVORCE – The Association will be widely recognized as the #1 resource and authority on the subject of divorce.   Our expanding membership will draw experts from all over the world on all divorce-related subjects to contribute to our panoramic educational offerings.

Through web and podcasts on a wide variety of topics of membership need and interest.  Our social network will constantly evolve our organization through communicating membership needs and wants.

The Association will host regional seminars and retreats for members to more closely link our membership in geographic areas.

We will create a political arm – our voice into systems that we want more sensitive and supportive of our needs.  Our schools, our courts, our churches, our government all see our struggles and will benefit from our collective voice communicating how they can better serve us.  In her February 24, 2013 blog, Cathy Meyer writes about “Judges and Lawyers: A Major Problem With the Family Court System.”  Her writing illuminates how Family Law Judges failure to act sabotages best efforts on behalf of POD children.  Reading it frustrates.  What will we what can we, as an Association,  do about it?  That is the important question!

Our educational services will become so recognized for their effectiveness that our curriculums will be incorporated into schools and churches and recommended by the courts.

We will become the organization that conducts and organizes the most research on the phenomenon of divorce and the impact of divorce on children and adults.

This is just a glimpse.  What else do you see in the future for our coming together?  Do you believe it’s worth the effort?

Does this blog provide information that will help you achieve your goal of never divorcing again? LEAVE A REPLY below and tell us more. Did this blog provide information that will cause you to take action? Will you post further comments or ask questions about this blog on The POD social network? Is this blog relevant to your life experience as a person of divorce? Let us know, below…

“The POD” – Our Social Network Rules of Engagement

“The POD” – Our Social Network Rules of Engagement

By Bill Schacht, MS, LCSW

“The POD” is the name we have affectionately given to our community.  Its name both defines who we are and declares that we are committed to have our community as a safe place to interact.

Our PEOPLE OF DIVORCE – The Association social network is the most powerful tool we have.  It is the vehicle that will allow us to…

  • Learn from one another by sharing what has worked and what has not worked for us in facing common POD life challenges.
  • Ask questions of the membership when we are stuck in POD-related issues.
  • Share other resources (i.e. professional, media, etc.) we have used successfully to help us in our separation, divorce, and blending families process.
  • Create special interest member groups around shared challenges (i.e. co-parenting at distance) and projects (i.e. re-organizing financially post divorce, etc.).

In other words, communicate to The Association what education, support, and resources we, as individuals and families, want and need our Association to provide so help us achieve our goals of never divorcing again and creating and sustaining the joyful, healthy relationships.

As we researched the market and planned the creation of The Association, we reviewed hundreds of divorce-related websites.  Sadly, we saw that many of the forum and social network sites showed way too many posts and entries of folks slamming their ex, bemoaning their fate, and using the site as their virtual psychotherapist.

We want our community to be safe, productive, and somewhat entertaining, not a place to get depressed by reading rants, raves, and venting to nowhere.  We are not and Association of “whoa is me!”  We are not a gathering spot for angry, highly conflicted people who want to inflict more pain on their ex.

We ARE a culture of Never Again! – and creating our own and family happiness through awareness and positive change.

To that end, here are the rules of engagement for our social network posts and entries…

The POD – Rules of Engagement

 Posts allowed and welcomed…

  • Request the Association to expand our services or make our organization better.  Write what you want and need The Association to be for you and your family.
  • Share a challenge that you and your family have faced as POD and what you did that helped you be successful in overcoming that obstacle or things you tried that caused you to fail or made the situation worse.
  • Share what you have learned about what you did or did not do that contributed to the failure of your marriage.  Share what you have done to correct those as you explore or engage in new relationship.
  • Share things that you have learned and use to create joyful, healthy relationships.
  • Share co-parenting successes.  Share what you learned that causes co-parenting failure.
  • Acknowledge your ex for a good thing they did to make post-divorce life better for you and your children.
  • Present topics of interest that you would like to see engaged in The Association blogs and forums.
  • Ask questions and request The Association to provide educational opportunities on your areas of interest.
  • Share professional resources and support that have been valuable to you and your family.

Post content that is prohibited …

  •  All language that is profanity or vulgar.
  • All language that is discriminatory of race, ethnicity, creed, or legal sexual preference.
  • Posting of real name, identifying information, or contact information of any person. It is acceptable to post contact information of a professional resource you are recommending to the membership.
  • Repeated bashing or blaming of ex’s or other people.
  • Advertising or selling of any service or product other than those approved by PEOPLE OF DIVORCE – The Association.

The Association reserves the right to cancel any membership and remove any posts that it deems in violation of the rules of engagement.

The POD: Making a Difference, Achieving Our Goal

The POD: Making a Difference, Achieving Our Goal

by Bill Schacht, MS, LCSW

I have shared our vision of PEOPLE OF DIVORCE – The Association with so many.  These are not only POD, but also professionals from the business community: investors, lawyers, marketers, and the like.  Most people have a similar, initial response, “Great idea, well-needed, huge underserved population.”   Most of them then ask, “How are you going to be successful in making a difference in the lives of PODs when no one else has?”  This is a valid and useful question.

The most important piece of the answer is critical to understand.  “I” cannot; but “WE” can.  No one person can create significant change in the relationship patterns of POD.  But, as a mass, we hold the potential.  Why?  Because people with a common goal can create quantum change in the world, whereas an isolated individual cannot.

As a membership in communication, we will share and learn what works and what does not work to end dysfunctional relationship patterns and employ effective relationship patterns. But, hold on, other “experts,” (i.e. the Dr. Phil’s of the world) have all had their crack at it.  No “one” has made a difference in the trends.  In mass, through networking, ongoing communication, and support of our membership, “WE” can.

OK, you are reading this thinking, “How, Bill?”

Here is an example…

In a Huffington Post blog of January 23, 2012 entitled “The Shocking Truth for Thirty Percent of Divorced Women,” author Jennifer Gauvain summarizes her research findings which suggest that 30% of American divorced women surveyed reported that, on the day they were saying “I DO,” they already clearly knew that their marriage would fail.  Is this a shocking notion?  No.  Is the percentage shocking? Yes!  Let’s hypothesize that Jennifer’s study is flawed.  Even at 1/3 error rate results in a 20% rate – still shocking!

I have this crazy idea that some of you reading this right now are thinking, “Yeah, I’m one of the people who did that.”   OK, then!

We can imagine that the problem is even bigger – what percentage of the males are doing the same thing?  We know for sure some.  Let’s conservatively say 10%.  Then, we can ask what percent of these men and women were a “couple?”  Let’s surmise not too many.

As a critical thinking membership, we can hypothesize that 25% of American marriages include at least one person with a someday divorce emblazoned in their thinker.  We already know, from Jennifer’s research, that such thinking magically results in actual divorce.

As an Association, let’s form an opinion about this.  Let’s boldly declare to ourselves and the world that people getting married with such thoughts is a very bad idea.

Now, we have a position from which, as individuals and as a group, we can act.  What if, as a massive group, we can use networking and political influence to significantly reduce the number of men and women who do that?  How could we do that?

The PEOPLE OF DIVORCE – The Association would declare a rule for all people about to be married.

The Rule…

Section A: No person should get married when they are having serious thoughts, with valid reasons, that their pending marriage will probably fail.

Section B:  A person scheduled to be married must tell others, including but not limited to their fiancé, parents, and their best friend that they are having those thoughts.  An additional party to tell should be any pre-marriage coach (i.e. clergy member, etc.)

Section C: No person having such thoughts should say “I DO” unless the “reasons” for the thoughts can be invalidated.  Clergy and judges should not and will not marry people who present such thoughts unless change of those beliefs can be achieved.

Good rule?  You betcha!  If our stats and hypotheses are valid, effective rule compliance could potentially reduce the divorce rate in America by up to 25%.  Wow!

Next question, how do we generate rule compliance?  As an Association, we pole our members for action plan ideas.  We come up with things like this…

  • We ask our members to commit to “the rule.”  Personally, I have no angst about making this promise.  Do you?  If we have 1 million POD members unmarried, stats suggest 75% of them will act on getting married again.  If the numbers prove out stats, 187,000 of those folks would be having the “I think this will fail” cognitions as they approach their next marriage.  If those members follow “the rule,” by definition, 187,000 divorces are prevented.
  • Next we commit to asking our children who are getting engaged if they are having such thoughts and we get them to commit to not go forward with a marriage with such thoughts active.  An unreasonable parental action or request?  No, more a responsibility on our part.
  • Next, we publicize “the rule.” We invest as an Association in 10-15 second radio ads.  Message sounds like this:  “Getting married soon?  Having serious thoughts that your marriage will fail?  25% of people getting married do.  If you are, pause.  Be honest. Get the support you need.   A public service message of PEOPLE OF DIVORCE – The Association.  Go to www.peopleofdivorce.com.
  • In working with numerous clergy, I have been told that many religious based pre-marriage programs are not designed to identify couples who are at high risk of failure to the point of delaying or refusing to conduct the marriage ceremony.  Some programs do have this as a goal.  As an Association and as individual members of The POD, we speak with our church clergy and send literature about Jennifer’s research to all churches that offer pre-marriage programs.  We ask our pastors and church leaders who quality control pre-marriage programs to ask couples if either are having such thoughts, counsel individuals who are to seriously address them, share them with their fiancé, and delay the wedding until relationship confidence can be restored or it is determined  “not a match.”

I am confident that The POD membership will come up with even better ideas to act on this.

Delusional fantasy?  No, common sense.  Impossible to accomplish?  No, doable.  This is just one of many good changes we will champion.

Are you with me?

Did this blog provide information that will cause you to take action? LEAVE A REPLY below and tell us more. Does this blog provide information that will help you achieve your goal of never divorcing again? Will you post further comments or ask questions about this blog on The POD social network? Is this blog relevant to your life experience as a person of divorce? Let us know, below…

Guiding Your Child of Divorce in Relationship Building

Guiding Your Child of Divorce in Relationship Building
By Bill Schacht, MS, LCSW

My 11 ½ year old daughter of divorce, Hunter Rose, is with me for 50% placement. Last night, I asked her to whom she was considering bestowing a valentine card. She said that was not going to be a formal activity at her school. So, making one for each of her classmates was not on her mind. She’s not into boys yet. So, she was having no hormonally driven ideas either.

I asked her if she thought her mother would appreciate getting a valentine from her. She paused and asked, “Do you think she would like that?” I suggested that anytime and any way she expressed her love for her mother would warm her mother’s heart and brighten her day. She agreed and decided a card for mom would happen.

To deepen my parenting and her learning opportunity, I then asked her if she should consider giving a card to her mom’s boyfriend, Dan. Hunter Rose’s mom, Amy, and Dan have been in relationship for well beyond a year. Dan is a good guy, a good match for Amy, and Hunter Rose enjoys him. Amy has shared with Hunter Rose and me that marriage is likely in their near future. They have actively involved Hunter Rose in looking for a new home that would blend them into one residence.

We discussed that when children live with their dad and mom, it is normal and natural that the family talk about and act on continuous development of their loving, give and take relationships. We noted this time and energy investment is what keeps family members feeling “we are there for one another” and bonded.

We pondered that, paradoxically, families who get splintered by time and space of divorce, do not work as consciously, consistently, and naturally to develop bond and relationship. We concluded that, beyond logistics, this dynamic occurs because of no cultural protocols or handbook for families progressing toward blending into one. We also agreed that it is caused by a subconscious protection about the possibility of the relationship suddenly ending and a split occurring. We sensed that both children and adults of divorce experience a fear of getting too close and getting hurt again if the blending of families fails.

This combination of POD’s not having the time, taking the time, and guiding our children in the importance and value of ongoing relationship building and development and fear of possible future breakup or abandonment with those whom we consider “family” is the very notion that keeps us from developing interdependence and commitment in relationship that will keep us together and loving one another, even in the most difficult times.

No matter what our present family structure, it is essential that we teach our children to grow our love for and build relationship with existing and future family members.

Is this blog relevant to your life experience as a person of divorce? LEAVE A REPLY below and tell us more. Does this blog provide information that will help you achieve your goal of never divorcing again? Will you post further comments or ask questions about this blog on The POD social network? Did this blog provide information that will cause you to take action? Let us know, below…

Providing Effective and Appropriate Support For Our Children of Divorce

Providing Effective and Appropriate Support For Our Children of Divorce
By Bill Schacht, MS, LCSW

There are few resources for parents who see their children struggling through family separation and divorce.

Some school systems provide after school support groups and individual access to school counselors, social workers , and school psychologists. The availability and effectiveness of these services vary.

Some churches provide excellent support from clergy and church outreach. Some do not.

The resource most visible to parents to get help for their children is outpatient psychological services. A parent will be told by a child’s teacher, school counselor, pediatrician, or clergy, “Maybe your child should see a therapist.” Many parents come to this conclusion themselves. Sometimes kids ask for such support.

I am mental health professional licensed to provide such service to adults and children.

Even with understanding the scarcity of effective support resources for our children in many American communities, please be informed that, psychotherapy, as you imagine it, is not a good choice for the majority of the children. This may be hard to understand.

I have posted “Red Alert” (click here) to further educate you on the subject.

Our responsibility as PEOPLE OF DIVORCE – The Association is to ensure that effective education and support is available to children of all ages facing the challenges of family separation in a structure consistent with the child’s condition and circumstances.

RED ALERT: Doing Right by Our Children When Separating, Divorcing & Blending Families©

RED ALERT: Doing Right by Our Children When Separating, Divorcing & Blending Families©
By William Schacht, MS, LCSW

We are doing some of our kids a major disservice.

For thousands of years, human beings have prescribed to a primary family structure: a father, a mother, and child(ren). This is rapidly changing. Due to decades of a near 50% divorce rate, over one-third of all Americans now live in blended family structures. By the end of our generation, this is projected to increase to half of us.

Fueled by a reduction in religious influence and a more permissive, self-indulgent society, the departure from the basic family structure via separation and divorce is almost always the by-product of adult desire to end a painful current existence or create a perceived more pleasurable one.

Through the adult pursuit of a “better life,” our children are thrust into the scary dismantling of what they have known as their home and are faced with the challenge of new life structures and relationships they are not choosing for themselves.

Most adults, including the parents creating these changes, realize that family separation, divorce, and family re-blending can have a serious, terrifying impact on kids, even when their best interest may be at hand. It is common for such parents to hear themselves say, “This is going to be to be tough on the kids.”

It is obvious that a baby bird thrown from the nest or a bear cub separated from its sow are in deep danger and will overcome great odds even to survive. And, we accept that this chick or this cub will shriek in pain when suddenly the victim of such loss.

Our children, too, naturally react in crisis when the nuclear family is threatened or dissolved and many times when blended families are formed.

Too frequently, children in these situations will not outwardly show this internal distress. Because they are angry at their parents, or they believe their thoughts and feelings will be dismissed as trivial, or because they sense that sharing their true thoughts and feeling might cause further pain for their parents, often kids will choose to keep what they are going through to themselves.

Other children will show one or multiple symptoms: moodiness, anxiety, anger, rebellion, withdrawal, reduced school performance, lost interest in previously fun activity, and more. These are all NORMAL responses to this difficult life challenge.

When they respond in such normal ways, parents don’t always know what to do to help. And, because sometimes kids are scared or angry at their parents for breaking up the family or catapulting them into a new one, in some instances the kid won’t let them help.

These situations usually end up with the parent(s) thinking, “My kid needs to see someone,” because there is no other obvious help anywhere on the horizon. So, off to the psychologist’s office they go, more times than not with the kid being the one labeled as the “patient.” Sometime the child is willing; sometime the child resists.

It is important to understand that American insurance companies do not pay for marriage counseling or family counseling of any form. Insurance companies pay for medical diagnoses, one type being a “mental disorder.” And, most parents don’t have the financial wherewithal or psychological insight to pay cash for the therapist’s time.

The therapist could assign a non-mental disorder diagnosis (called a “V” code: V62.89 Phase of Life Problem, for example), but insurance companies will not pay for this. So, the child, who is now even more thinking that he/she is the “problem,” is nose to nose with a therapist who, to get the insurance company to pay for the counseling, assigns the kid with a DSM-IV psychological disorder diagnosis. This becomes forevermore a part of that child’s medical record. And, when the child is told about this diagnosis it is further suggesting that, “Something is wrong with ME!”

Some kids do have beyond normal reactions to these stressors. Thoughts of suicide, total inability to function in life, physically dangerous and aggressive behavior, self-medicating into alcohol and/or drugs are all signs of real diagnosable conditions.

But, most of these children’s reactions are completely normal, even predictable. For a psychiatrist, psychologist, or family counselor to label the kid as having a mental disorder can be both inaccurate and unethical. Most often, these children are labeled as having an “Adjustment Disorder” with some identifier of anxiety or depression.

For an “Adjustment Disorder” to be accurately diagnosed, the client must present responses to the stressful situation which are “marked distress that is in excess of what would be expected from exposure to the stressor” (DSM-IV criteria). If you awoke to a grizzly bear standing over your bed, would you consider your mad dash to the door or nearest window as an “abnormal” reaction to the stressor? Surely not!

Yet, mental health professionals are doing just that in diagnosing children responding normally to stressful family changes.

Such diagnoses can have devastating consequences for the child later in life when applying for certain jobs (i.e. government classified, etc.), licenses (i.e. pilot, etc.), and insurances (i.e. health, life, disability, etc.). Inadvertently, the “do good” of diagnostic based psychotherapy can result in unforeseen future unqualified candidacy and higher premiums or insurance rejection.

Children in these situations do benefit from and many times require significant support as they face the challenges of family separation, divorce, or blending of families. It is critical that these kids…

 Learn that they are experiencing the challenge of a significant life changing event. And, that periodic life change is a part of life itself.

 Have their thoughts and feelings acknowledged and validated.

 Understand that what they are experiencing in this life changing event is NORMAL.

 Be supported in keeping communication active and effective within all important relationships.

 Learn coping strategies and skills for challenging situations (i.e. “What do I say when dad introduces me to his new girlfriend for the first time?” etc.).

 Realize that they have a responsibility to continue the pursuit of their personal potential, even in the face of difficult life situations. They must refrain from being a “victim” to what is happening around them, and keep focused on creating the joyful life they desire.

 Create and act upon a life plan to actualize into their personal potential.

Without such support, some of these children can and will become lost in a myriad of scary thoughts and correlated bad feelings about their family change.

As a culture, we must stop the pattern of these children who are having normal responses to challenging life change inappropriately diagnosed and told they have a mental disorder.

We must provide safe and effective educational opportunities for these children to get the support they need in these family transitions.

All of Canada and American states such as Connecticut and Utah require adults going through divorce to take a course on effective parenting in a divorce situation. Interestingly, no states provide such educational experiences for the children in divorcing families, even though they are the ones most psychologically vulnerable.

The process of Americans adults seeking better lives for themselves must not lead to their kids losing a joyful childhood and family experience due to the natural chaos associated with change.

Organizations like PEOPLE OF DIVORCE – The Association out of Franklin, Wisconsin are recognizing the need to provide support and education for children and adults in evolving family structures. Beginning in 2012, this company will offer educational program for children in separations and divorce and for adults and children who are entering or have entered a blended family situation.

Such offerings will become increasingly needed as the structure of “family” continues to evolve in America. Their goal, as should be the goal of all Americans, is to help these kids feel normal and remain successful through the natural challenges of significant life change.

Author: William Schacht, MS, LCSW is the President of People of Divorce, LLC and the President of Performance Enhancement Heath Services, SC of Wisconsin. He is a practicing relationship consultant and psychotherapist. He can be contacted by email at wmschacht@msn.com or by phone at (866) 724-2000.

To get involved and be a catalyst for change, join the conversation on the People of Divorce forum!

Being Responsible to Our Children of Divorce

Being Responsible to Our Children of Divorce
By Bill Schacht, MS, LCSW

When you were preparing for the birth of your first child, you and your spouse may have read the book What To Expect When You Are Expecting. Over 21 million of us bought the book and who knows how many of us passed it along.

Why did we read it? Because we realized an event that would change our lives forever was quickly upon us. Never having gone through it before, even though we had observed countless others go through it, we wanted to be as prepared as possible. So, we did our due diligence to give us the best chance for success.

Allow me to suggest that going through family separation is a much longer and painful journey for a child than being born.

In a related story, I recently spoke to a group of City Health Department Directors about the impact of family separation and divorce on children. I got their attention by asking them to imagine that a new disease had come into their communities to which 50% of the children would be exposed. I told them that children exposed to this disease were observed as follows:

• 50% more health problems than children not exposed.
• Teens are 3 times more apt to be diagnosed with a psychological disorder.
• Six years after being exposed to the disease these children reported being significantly more lonely, unhappy, anxious, and insecure as their unexposed peers.
• Twice as apt not to graduate from high school.
• Three times as apt to have a baby out of wedlock.
• 10 times more apt to be sexually abused.
• 12 times as likely to end up in prison.

I told the Directors there was more bad news, but we did not have the time to go through it all.

I asked them, if their communities were exposed, would they declare this disease a major health risk and develop programs for prevention, early detection, and effective treatment of it. They assured me that all of their communities would do so. When I told them these were statistics on kids of divorce, I asked them if their City Health Departments would consider creating a community divorce prevention program. Soft chuckles and looks of stark reality were their responses.

As adults, some of us chose divorce; for others it was thrust upon us. For all of the children involved, divorce is not a choice. All experience the consequences.

I do not believe I have ever met a child who was not in some way negatively affected by divorce. A child’s age is not a factor. Our children ages 2 through 42 take a hit – the range of negative impact is wide.

Allow me to assert that, as PEOPLE OF DIVORCE and as an Association, we have a fundamental responsibility to thoroughly understand the potential negative impact of divorce on our kids. We must age appropriately educate them as to the risks. We must create and engage each of them in a plan which minimizes the negative impact of divorce and provides them with the support and resources they need to continue to function to their potential and enjoy life on a daily basis in the face of the many challenges of family separation.

To not do so is simply irresponsible.

Most of us read these statistics and believe they are true. We are appalled by them. However, too many of us will also have an ego preservation thought like, “Yeah, but it won’t happen to my kid.” In 34 years of clinical experience, I have learned that which kids will be hit hardest is not predictable.

PEOPLE OF DIVORCE – The Association membership will educate itself on the negative impact of divorce on children. We will provide a seminars and ongoing education that supports members to help their kids reduce the impact. We will provide support and resources to parents and children on achieving our goal of never going through it again!

There is no quick fix. This takes dedicated time, concentrated learning, and ongoing effort. Learning how to provide and deliver effective co-parenting from two households is a monumental task in-and-of-itself.

Our kids are counting on us. Their quality of life is at stake.

Is this blog relevant to your life experience as a person of divorce? LEAVE A REPLY below and tell us more. Does this blog provide information that will help you achieve your goal of never divorcing again? Will you post further comments or ask questions about this blog on The POD social network? Did this blog provide information that will cause you to take action? Let us know, below…