Building Bridges

Background (continued)

How do adults other than parents make a difference?
Everyone around the divorced or divorcing family influences all the members of the family, directly or indirectly. Friends of a parent who take sides can prolong a state of warfare in which the children continue be innocent victims; friends who listen compassionately and then direct parental attention to the building of bridges to the next chapter of the family's life can protect the children from preventable harm. Neighbors, co-workers, health professionals, bartenders, hairdressers, relatives, co-workers, and even casual contacts all exercise an effect: in the way they listen to expressions of distress, in their choice of jokes to tell (or refrain from telling), in their acknowledgment of pain or sadness, in the view they express of the family's future.

Similarly, people who have direct contact with children during and after divorce can make an important difference. Grandparents and other relatives, teachers, friends, coaches, day-care workers, and baby-sitters can show support for children's interests and activities, let them be heard and feel heard, encourage their initiative, and honor their accomplishments (22). The degree and kind of loving, supportive interactions with caring adults affect the success of children's coping with the stresses of divorce, and proceeding with their own healthy growth and development.

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