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July 17, 1992     The Message
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JUly 17 •, 1992 The Message.-' for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana • 3 divorce must learn to co-parent their children MARY ANN HUGHES Message staff writer there is a divorce, a ends, but the family on. The family structure the same for children: still have their mother father. essential, then, to focus lthe children rather than raarriage following a di- Riffert and Susan thlstrom of Family and ildren Services in traveled to At- Ga., in May to attend a seminar which fo- on helping children with their parents' di- Family and Children's Ser- vices has approached the Vanderburgh County Supe- rior Court judges about im- plementing a Dissolution Ed- ucation Seminar in Vanderburgh County for cou- ples with children who are in the divorce process. If the court system agrees, couples would be required to attend a four-hour educa- tional seminar dealing with how families can cope with the effects of divorce. Wahlstrom explained that parents must learn to co-par- ent their children, despite di- vorce and separate living ar- rangements. "For the child, the family has to continue." Parents need to learn to rec- ognize warning signs in their children's behavior and ways to help their children through the traumatic effects of di- vorce. The seminar would focus on these aspects: the emotional divorce, co-parent- ing skills, the legal divorce, the economic divorce, the community divorce and the psychological divorce. Emotional divorce: Chil- dren need to go through a grieving process following a divorce and parents must learn to help their children through this process. Chil- dren who are not going through this natural process may exhibit: • an absence of sadness, Normal reactions after a divorce • normal reactions of dren generally appear the period of separa- and during the year or so iitial adaptation to the di- Some reactions may longer. ANGER: The children are at both parents, at "Vaselves and siblings. may be hidden anger or *ressed through words or There is an in- in sibling squabbles. bINIAL: The children may the divorce did not THE UNION BANK A FUL-L SERVICE BANK Member F.D.I.C. 295-2624 5O LOOG(X)TI INE) occur or may act as if they are unaffected. They may also try to reunite the parents. FEAR: The children worry about their own or other's safety and security. They may express fears about their own welfare and future caregiving. They may be clinging, or seek contact and reassurance. GUILT/SELF BLAME: There may be wishful think- ing and "if only's." The chil- dren may ask questions over and over, seeking reassurance and relief, blaming them- selves in overt and/or hidden ways. They may be uncon- sciously seeking punishment. HEALTH/SLEEP CHANGES: There may be minor health complaints, ap- petite changes, sleep changes, bad dreams and fear of sleep- ing alone. INSECURITY: There may be clinging; refusal to going to school; increased posses- siveness of people, pets and possessions; testing and seek- ing limits, especially when switching from one parent's home to the other; seeking substitute figures. REGRESSION: There may be a return to an earlier level of functioning (seeking out security blankets, bedwet- ting). This can usually be turned around with reassur- ance and the absence of criti- cism and judgment. SADNESS: The children may be saddened constantly or at intervals. They may cry, act tired or hyperactive, or they may be withdrawn. These are all normal reac- tions. They are part of the adapting and healing process. • signs of depression, • continuous acting out. • overly responsible behav- ior. Children may be accept- ing some of the responsibility for their parents' divorce and may believe that if they are "good enough," their parents will get back together. Co-parenting skills: When their parents are divorced, children must learn to accept parenting from two different households. That becomes a major transition task and Wahlstrom urges parents to "stay together in your parent- ing. Learn to restructure the relationship while maintain- ing good parenting skills." In order for children to be balanced, their parents have to be balanced, Wahlstrom said, explaining that children don't need "a fun place to go with no rules and then a mean and terrible place to go. That's not good for the child." She also suggests that chil- dren be given their own room when they visit the non-cus- todial parent. Legal divorce: It is impor- tant for parents to understand what a divorce is and what it is not, Wahlstrom said. A legal divorce is about the sep- aration of assets and liabili- ties and about making provi- sions for children. "It is not a way to punish or get even with ex-spouses be- cause of years of problems. It is not a way to show children who really loves them and it is not a way to get something from an ex-spouse that wasn't given during the marriage." Wahlstrom said that the children who are most harmed by divorce are "those whose parents repeatedly re- sort to the court system to re- solve their pain or hurt. Often parents stay in court battles as a way to get attention from their ex-spouse. That's one way an ex-spouse will try to hold on." Economic divorce: Parents must attempt to see their chil- dren's perspective on the eco- nomics of divorce: divorce usually means a lower stan- dard of living and economic changes for the child. Parents should also avoid putting their children in the middle of economics fights. Community divorce: Par- ents must find a support net- work for themselves com- posed of adults; they must avoid using their children to meet their emotional needs. Parents need to be aware that their children's friend- ships may change following a divorce. Sometimes, the fam- ily moves and the children lose friends and change schools. Sometimes, the par- ents' friends change which may mean the children's friends change too. Psychological divorce: Children get their basic secu- rity, their basic needs and a sense of who they are from their family, Wahlstrom said. "A divorce will shatter that sense of security. Everything around them changes. It takes a long time to put those pieces back together." Next week: How children get caught in the middle. Where customers send their friends" Open nightly til 9 p.m. hoi, & Son 0LD US 231 SOUTH - JASPER, IN - 482-2222 E'...z, Geฎ TOYOTA bid You Know: 1-800-937-USA1 OLDs CIERA is most trouble free car made in America J. D. Powers "Pr jill Ann White ,' Adminlst r -,1oข Hwy. 57 So, Washington, IN 812-254.4516 irle Village ving Center i SINCE 1888 Schum Monuments, Inc. DALE, INDIANA 937-4921 Worried? Depressed? Stressed-Out? Confused? Low Self-Esteem? a • • ql 14r  Unable To Cope? uzcmat. 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A Continuing'Service of: I00MORIALA HOSPITAL And Health Care Center Owned and Operated by the Sisters of the Little Company of Mary, Inc. 800 West 9th Street A Jasper, Indiana 47546 A 1-800-852-7279 Warning signs These signs in children may indicate a need for in- creased parental support or professional intervention, es- peciall2ข if they appear after the divorce process is settled and the new routines are underway: • an exaggeration in the normal responses • verbalizing despair • accident proneness • giving away their possessions • withdrawing to the point of isolation * significant weight loss or gain • extended changes in sleeping and/or eating habits e frequent nightmares • preoccupation with illness of self and others • school troubles (changes in peer relations, classroom behavior and/or academic performance) • lying • destroying own or other's property • deliberately hurting or wounding themselves • significant change in personality over time • refusing to stay with formerly trusted adults • explosive behavior (rages, screaming, tantrums) * stealing • running away from home • health complaints and health changes • becoming unusually rigid about everyday patterns • intense, unrealistic fears I I II I II I I III Catholic Charities offers family counseling Catholic Charities Bureau in the Diocese of Evansville does family counseling in Evansville, Washington, Jasper and Vincennes.