Several of the peer counselors that had moved on from the NFRC contacted Risa to update her on their lives, and one in particular provided great insight into the impact that the NFRC had had on her life as her family transitioned:
“The first thought that K shared was that she wishes her parents had brought her to NFRC as soon as the separation was announced. “I was 11 1/2 and I did not start with the center until I was 14. I didn’t want to come but knew that I needed it.” While acknowledging that therapy isn’t for everyone, she valued therapy and worked hard. The most significant way that therapy helped her was to learn to express her feelings and communicate them to her family and others.”
Sometimes bad communication styles are passed from parents to children, like being aggressive, passive, or passive aggressive. Learning to be assertive, to recognize your feelings and emotions and also to value your feelings are an important part of maturing.
“”I came from a family where feelings were shoved under the table. I needed help because my parents were caught up in their own struggles and I got lost.” What K wishes is that that parents could understand is how detrimental it is for them to parentify their children by sharing their adult problems with them, confiding in them or expecting them to reverse roles and become their parents’ caregivers. K believes that co-parenting is critical. She suggests that parents seek support to deal with the many emotional, financial and parenting challenges that come with divorce. She reflected that parents have so many pressures to contend with but that children need their parents and additional support at the same time.”
K also discussed many of the challenges that children experience when going through a family transition, such as:
- adjusting to a physical separation from one parent;
- figuring out new schedules;
- moving locations;
- changing schools;
- deciding which parent to spend holidays with; and
- feeling guilty.
Children react in different ways to separation and divorce, and it is a good idea to allow children access to counsellors to talk about the feelings and emotions that they are experiencing. A lot of the time, children will take their parents’ separation very personally. The good news is that divorce and separation doesn’t have to be a destructive event for many families. Several studies show that children who have parents that stay together but are unhappy with their relationship are less well-adjusted than children whose parents have separated and are happy.
The main point that K made was that counseling, therapy or some form of support for children in families that are in transition is really important, and this is important for all members of the family, children AND parents.
In Victoria, BC Families’ in Transition provides a number of free or cost-effective options for families that are going through separation and/or divorce, and is something that every parent should look in to. BC FIT also offers Parenting After Separation, a course that is now mandatory for all parents that seek orders relating to children through the Provincial Court in British Columbia. Additionally, they have programs for parents and children, such as Caught in the Middle, that help support children through the transition. BC FIT also provides a number of group therapy sessions, and knowing that you are not alone is a big help. If you have questions about your separation or divorce, or would like a referral to counselors, therapists, or other separation professionals in the Victoria/Vancouver area, let me know!