Seminar explains effect of divorce on children

September 24, 1993|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

Parents who are going through a divorce may not understand the effects it has on their children, says the head of a local agency that is offering a course designed to help.

"We want them to take a second look at what they're doing," George Giese, executive director of the private, nonprofit Youth Service Bureau, said of the parents.

The bureau is offering a new course, similar to those already offered in Montgomery and Howard counties, called a Parenting Seminar on Separation and Divorce. The seminar is a two-part class that will show parents how their disagreement can affect children during and after a divorce.

Mr. Giese said the information to be presented in the seminar will help parents considering a divorce, those going through one and those who have been divorced but still are unable to agree on matters regarding their children.

Arguments about such things as whether a child can play soccer or have a certain toy, or more serious issues such as visitation and custody, usually make the child feel obligated to choose between the two parents, Mr. Giese said.

"To use the child as a messenger, for example: 'Tell your father this. . .' That should not be done. These messages between father and mother are sometimes very destructive. You're setting the child up to choose between mom and dad. The child doesn't want to do that," he said.

The classes will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. for two nights. The next class meets Oct. 13 and 20. The cost is $75 for both sessions.

Mr. Giese said the classes can accommodate 20 people.

He believes most referrals will come through judges, lawyers and clergy. A pastor he spoke to in Mount Airy took four brochures for parents he was counseling, he said.

Mr. Giese said he sent licensed social workers from his agency to train for the course, after confirming with a local judge that the service is needed.

He said most parents mean well, but are too preoccupied with retaliating against a former spouse to consider the child's perspective.

"We feel that some of this will sink in. Not all of it's going to sink in," he said.

The class is not therapy, but takes a more didactic approach, he said.

"We say, 'This is normal child development between the ages of 1 and 3. This is what happens to a child between 1 and 3 when there's a divorce,' " he said.

The Youth Service Bureau receives state and county grant money to provide services to families.

The bureau also offers a support group for "blended families." That group is designed to help families that include stepparents, siblings and other combinations. It meets weekly beginning Monday and will be led by a licensed social worker. The cost is $40 for seven weeks.

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