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Children in view

Training for parents in phases of separation and divorce

The child should be fine despite the separation

When parents in separating families argue about the child's welfare, it is often about the general framework: Housing, care, visiting times, money, school, food or health. However, the child's welfare is also largely dependent on responsible interaction with the child and the other parent. The "Children at a glance" course for parents provides practical advice on how to deal with the separation situation.

The separation or divorce of parents is a crisis-ridden experience for everyone involved. The separating couple must come to terms with the disappointment of a failed relationship and deal with hurt and rejection. But it is particularly difficult for the children. Powerless, they experience how the central structure of the family falls apart. The lack of security leads to fears of loss and the question of whether they themselves may have done something wrong. They often feel abandoned by the parent who is leaving - or even by both.

In arguments with each other, many separating parents lose a sense of how their actions are adding to the children's suffering. It's high time to focus on the children again.

Development aspirations and your own contribution

"For example, if dad hangs up angrily after a phone call with mom and says "Stupid cow!" in front of the child, he means the mother, but unintentionally also hits the child. We want to raise awareness of this," says Tillmann Schrörs. He is a systemic parent coach and mediator and runs parenting courses - ideally together with a woman - at various Düsseldorf institutions based on the concept of "Kinder im Blick".

The program was developed by Familien-Notruf München and LMU Munich and focuses on the well-being of the child. An important step is to formulate parenting goals. Course leader Schrörs relies on the power of imagination: "Our participants mentally travel thirty years into the future and meet their son or daughter there. What kind of people will they have developed into? And now that we're looking into the future: What do the parents want the adult child to think about the separation period?" This usually creates the image of an independent person with a positive attitude towards life. A nice goal. The task in the course is to find out what needs to be done today to achieve this goal - in the way the parents interact with each other, but also with the child.

"The parents should get a feel for how certain situations feel for a separated child and how they can affect their development," says Tillmann Schrörs. "To do this, the course participants slip into the role of children and experience themselves from their perspective. Children also see themselves as a mixture of mom and dad. And so every bad word against a parent hurts them equally."

The hand on the pause button

But after a separation, there are always conflict-laden and emotional moments. It is difficult to reflect on your own actions and remain calm. In the course, parents learn to interrupt escalating discussions with a mental pause button.

For Tillman Schrörs, however, it's not about avoiding conflicts, but about parents breaking out of ingrained role patterns. So that every action is not automatically followed by an even harsher reaction: "Taking a break means interrupting the argument - even if it's under a pretext - regaining control of your own thoughts, taking a breath, doing something else. With distance, you can perhaps better understand the other person's point of view."

In order for the parents to learn more about the other perspective, the courses are always mixed - with former couples attending different courses. In this way, fathers learn how other mothers deal with stress-inducing situations - and vice versa. The aim is to react more calmly if the other parent is late in handing over the child or if you have not been sufficiently involved in the planning: These things happen - not necessarily as harassment or with malicious intent.

Meeting rejection with love

A child-in-view course is not only intended to strengthen and protect children indirectly by practising communication and calmness between the separated parents. Of course, this also applies to the child. For example, it is difficult for fathers - who often do not live with the child - to endure rejection by their children. Regardless of the reasons or the actual course of the separation, from the children's point of view, the father in this case is initially the "loser" who has destroyed the joint family.

Tillmann Schrörs: "Many children experience a sad mother at home and it is completely normal to be loyal to the person you are with every day. In the event of a dispute, this also means standing up to the father." To deal with this conflict of loyalty, it helps fathers to assess the circumstances correctly. They need to be patient and not let the child's rejection unsettle them. "Instead, they should signal to the child: I understand that you are angry, but I love you with your anger and I will be there for you."

So calmness is also called for here. As difficult as the situation may be, a relaxed attitude will help all family members and their relationship with each other in the long run.

Tillmann Schrörs is a systemic parenting coach and mediator in his own "Perspectives Workshop". As a parenting course leader, he supports the German Child Protection Association and the Association of Single Mothers and Fathers, VAMV e. V. He has three grown-up children.

Where can we find help and advice?

There are numerous advice centers in NRW that offer the "Kinder im Blick" parent training program. You can use the zip code search on the portal to find an advice center near you. Some advice centers also offer an online format in addition to face-to-face courses.

You can also find a point of contact for free advice in difficult separation situations in the approximately 270 family advice centers in NRW. You can use the online counseling guide of the German Association for Youth and Marriage Counseling (DAJEB) to search for a counseling center near you.

Further informationLinks to read more

For detailed information about the "Kinder im Blick" program, visit the Kinder im Blick portal.