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.