Posts Tagged ‘ divorce ’

Coping With Divorce: “Little Children, Big Challenges” Via Sesame Workshop

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Sesame Street - DivorceCoping with divorce is a challenge for kids at any age, but especially so when they are very young. To this end, the Sesame Workshop has launched a comprehensive multimedia kit, called Little Children, Big Challenges: Divorcewhich offers a variety of extremely helpful tools to help young kids (the target being between 2 and 8 years of age) and parents navigate the challenges. A focal point is one of the Sesame Street characters – Abby Cadabby – who shares with her friends that her parents have been divorced for some time. This perspective allows Abby to share her experiences and ways in which she has learned to cope with divorce in a very specific manner (see the image of her showing pictures of the two houses she lives in) that will resonate with youngsters.

Jeanette Betancourt, Ed.D. (Vice President, Outreach and Educational Practices) shared with me via phone a number of the key points that inspired this important initiative at the Sesame Workshop. Most importantly, the multimedia kit will help kids who have gone through divorce (as well as kids who are just experiencing it now) understand that they are not alone (which is a typical feeling for very young kids). Based on the research done at the Sesame Workshop, Dr. Betancourt explained that the goal is to help kids with their biggest concerns they have – especially in terms of what’s really going on in their heads even if they don’t typically say it. The tools will help kids understand big issues like:

  • divorce is a grown-up problem that the parents tried to fix, but couldn’t
  • kids don’t cause parents to divorce (for example, it’s not because a kid didn’t pick up their clothes)
  • the parents still do love their children (even if they aren’t living with them all the time)
  • why some things – like where everyone lives – will change and how to handle that

Parents will also find very helpful and supportive tips, including:

  • the need for kids to maintain a routine (including bedtime, basics like when they brush their teeth, etc) across multiple houses
  • the importance of being truthful (including saying that the parents will not be getting back together)
  • why it’s essential for both parents to maintain good communication in terms of consistent parenting (with respect to things like praise and discipline practices)

The power of the approach taken by the Sesame Workshop is that they are promoting coping strategies that will help kids feel safe, secure, and loved, despite the enormous challenges that divorce can pose for families. Dr. Betancourt emphasized that this developmental foundation, set in the early years, will help young kids now and later in life as well. So I would strongly encourage any family who is dealing with divorce to put all of the tools from this initiative to good use – especially given the engaging way in which the Sesame Workshop can promote coping skills in toddlers and young children.

Image © 2012 Sesame Workshop. Photo by: Richard Termine

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Children and Divorce: Promoting Resiliency

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Divorce is not uncommon in our society — nearly half of all first marriages end in divorce. As a result, large numbers of children experience divorce first hand. A recent review provides the following figures:

  • divorce affects over 1.5 million youth each year
  • 34% of children will see their parents divorce by the time they turn 16 years old

How do kids who live with divorce make out? Divorce can have a number of negative effects on behavioral and emotional adjustment that can extend into adolescence and adulthood. It’s important to point out that NOT EVERY child who experiences divorce has adjustment problems — but the likelihood of this happening is significantly higher when compared to children who have not experienced divorce.

Researchers have been zeroing in on the key reasons for this, along with ways to derail this process. Current studies (including one published this year by Dr. Clorinda Velez and colleagues) focus on ways to promote a positive parent-child relationship in the face of divorce. Divorced moms deal with multiple sources of distress (including feelings of loss, lingering animosity, real-life consequences of being a single parent) that can drain their emotional resources. As a result, it can become harder to maintain “positive” parenting, which includes (among other things) the following features:

  • using a warm, friendly voice
  • being patient
  • encouraging open conversation

What is promising is that intervention programs that help mothers focus on maintaining positive parenting can have very positive effects on their children. The Velez et al. study demonstrated that the children who experienced divorce when they were between 9-12 years of age have increased coping skills (both 6 months and 6 years later) that are tied to improvements in positive parenting gained by an intervention. The coping behaviors include things like having proactive problem solving skills and decision making styles, and finding ways to maintain positivity and optimism in the face of stressors. Coping skills are critical because experiencing a profound stressor like divorce can lead children to develop maladaptive ways for handling adversity.

Dealing with a divorce is complex, but especially so when you are a parent. My fellow blogger, Julia Landry, is providing us with an eloquent account of the challenges she is currently facing. As you will find in reading her posts, coping well with adversities in life not only helps us as adults, but also gives our children a platform of resiliency that bodes well for their development.

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono via

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