OHEL Launching Local Support Groups for Divorced Mothers and Fathers
Learn the Keys to Successful Parenting after Divorce
Following on the heels of OHELâ€™s widely successful Rising from Divorce film which was screened to thousands of people across the country, OHEL is expanding services in Far Rockaway to divorced parents in the community.
While â€śdivorce" may no longer evoke the conventional stigma that was once common in the community, the fact remains that divorce is a devastating life event for both the couple and their children.
For the couple: hurt, grief, disappointment, regret, bitterness, conflict, anger, blame, fear, uncertainty, guilt, the list can be long. Often, in the throes of a divorce and its aftermath, the pain and loss, anger and conflict, become consuming. It is just so hard to think, feel, and see beyond the intense experience of this profound rupture.
But the children; what of the children?
Precious fruits of the marriage, jewels in the crown of their parents who love their children and want the best for them. The childrenâ€™s lives have been torn asunder, the very foundation of their security shattered. The two people who are at the center of their world, of their very being and their security, are no longer married, no longer love each other, no longer live under the same roof, may even display open hostility toward each other, and worse. Divorce strikes at the very core of a child, where the childâ€™s fierce and faithful love for parents endures.
Both parents and children must undergo enormous adjustments.
The visiting parent, typically the father, misses his children, mourns the loss of their day-to-day presence in his life. He has to continue his relationship with the children in a dramatically new way and may feel guilty for the suffering brought on by the divorce. Gone is the familiar footing of their relationship, rooted in their shared home and family life. He has to provide a comfortable, warm, pleasant setting for them and care for them by himself when they come for visits. He may not have family nearby and have to make Shabbos and Yom Tov alone with his children, a new challenge. He has to get to shul and make arrangements for the children while he is out of the house. Shabbosim and Yom Tovim without the children can be terribly lonely. He often feels like he is missing out and fear that he will eventually recede into the background of his childrenâ€™s lives.
Establishing and sustaining appropriate expectations and structure may hold little appeal, when his time with the children is now limited. He may indulge them as he struggles to assure them of his love and be assured of their enduring love. He may have trouble insisting on homework and studying, if his time with the children is fleeting. He doesnâ€™t want to leave the children with negative memories of their visit when he drops them off at â€śhome.â€ť
The mother is typically thrust overnight into the role of single parent.
Suddenly, she finds herself juggling everything on her own. She may have new income responsibilities, and she may not have had the schooling or training to earn well. If she has sons, there is no father at home to take them to shul; no father at home to learn with the boys as they get older.
A single mother often feels that the bulk of disciplining falls on her, while the father gets to have all the fun with the kids. She may be left â€śhold the bagâ€ť of all the things that the children needed to do that may not have been taken care of while visiting with their father. She now sits at the head of the table, thrust into a strange new role on Shabbos and Yom Tov. If she doesnâ€™t have a strong support network of family and friends, it is difficult for her to catch any respite that may have previously been available with help from her husband.
A single mom generally has a hard time taking care of herself. She lives with a lot of stress and can become depleted. She may be edgy, impatient, and feel guilty she isnâ€™t able to be a better mother. She often feels socially ill at ease and even marginalized in her community, if it is dominated by intact families.
And the children.
They miss the absent parent greatly. Often, when with one parent, they are pining for the other. Children typically think they are to blame for the divorce. The thought that the parents whom they so desperately love cannot stand each other is unbearable. They need to hold their parents together within themselves, but that template has been broken. When they experience conflict between their parents, it tears them apart, impacts their identity and sense of self. Moving back and forth between parental homes is a practical and emotional nightmare. The natural rhythm of intact family life has been upended. Children suffer deeply when they are caught between warring parents. Single mothers and fathers who expose their children to parent conflicts and bitterness cut deeply into the childâ€™s foundation.
Unsurprisingly, even the healthiest of parents have great difficulty adjusting to divorce. And 20-25% of children whose parents divorce are at risk of lifelong emotional and behavioral problems. It is commonly known that about half of first marriages end in divorce. Perhaps less well known is that the divorce rate for subsequent remarriages is even higher. Although divorce has become more common and de-stigmatized, research has shown that the negative impact of divorce on child wellbeing has increased, exploding the myth of better child outcomes in cases of â€śamicableâ€ť divorce.
Notably, the persistence of parental conflict is a primary cause of poor long-term outcomes for children across the spectrum of their lives.
Today, there is a growing population of divorced parents in the Jewish community.
Supporting and guiding their adjustment to the realities of divorce buttresses the adjustment of their children. Research has shown that psycho-educational groups for divorced parents and their children reduce conflict, foster effective co-parenting, and develop essential coping skills. All are vital protective factors against risk to child and family wellbeing.
OHEL is introducing this vital resource in our community by initially offering groups for divorced mothers and fathers. The group for mothers will meet on Tuesday evenings at 8:30pm beginning June 21, and run for seven consecutive weeks. The fathersâ€™ group will meet for seven consecutive Wednesdays, beginning June 22nd. All group meetings will be held at OHEL Regional Family Center in Far Rockaway, at 156 Beach 9th Street, in the 2nd floor Conference Room.
The mothersâ€™ group will be led by OHEL therapists Eileen Fine and Adina Ribacoff; the fathersâ€™ group will be led by OHEL therapists Eileen Fine and Mordechai Jacobs. For more information, please contact OHEL Access at 800-603-OHEL or visit http://www.ohelfamily.org.