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The child development department at Fresno State is co-hosting a six-week divorce workshop which is open to the Fresno community and aims to help all people affected by divorce.

Divorce workshop helps kids cope with parents’ separation

The child development department at Fresno State is co-hosting a six-week divorce workshop which is open to the Fresno community and aims to help all people affected by divorce.

Fresno State is working with Encourage Tomorrow, an educational enrichment program for the Central Valley, and the event takes place Saturday mornings. The event started Feb. 4, and focuses on teaching communication skills within family dynamics.

The workshop began in 2003 with a grant from First Five.  Jennifer Anderson, a program assistant for Encourage Tomorrow, has seen growth in both parents and children who attend the six-week program.

“Divorce affects the whole family unit,” Anderson said. “Every single person has their own story, their own personal battle. This workshop involves learning how to communicate with their parents, and being able to set boundaries.”

Children ages 4 to 14 are separated by age and use activities such as puppets, poetry and art to express their emotions and develop communication skills.

“The healing that takes place is incredible,” Anderson said.  “This program reinforces to the children that marriage is OK, not something to be scared of.”

“The kids interact and learn, and through this they are learning communication,” said Lai Robinson, a four-time volunteer for the workshop and a child development student at Fresno State.  “However, the biggest thing we teach the kids is that it is not their fault.”

Although ‘Kids Turn’ is new to Encourage Tomorrow, it has been around since 1988.

Lacie Turner, who has worked with Encourage Tomorrow for the last four workshops, has seen what the program can offer.

“Both mine and Jennifer’s parents are divorced.  I just wish I had this program growing up,” Turner said.

After the program is completed, a graduation ceremony is held. Both the parent and child receive a certificate of completion.

“It doesn’t take a piece of paper to notice and see the growth in the kids and parents from the first to last session,” Robinson said.

Sixty percent of the parents who come to the workshop are court-ordered.

“there are parents on campus who need this program,” Anderson said.  “Anyone with a young family is faced with so many challenges.”

Tamara Fisher, who has been a marriage and family therapist for five years, has seen changes in children once their parents separate.

“Children are generally resilient.  Most commonly I see regression, anxiety and attention-seeking behaviors,” Fisher said.

She believes that the most common change that occurs for a child once their parents divorce is the splitting and manipulating between two households.

“They need structure and consistency,” Fisher said.

Corrina Grijalva, a  graduate of the child development program and previous intern for Encourage Tomorrow, believes the workshop is extremely important.

“The workshop is teaching them how to parent and put differences aside, to learn what is best and easiest for the kids,” Grijalva said. “This program is a co-parenting workshop centered around how to read kids’ cues.”

Anderson acknowledges that the success of the workshop and the growth that is seen in both the parents and children wouldn’t be possible without the volunteers who work with the different age groups.

“We cannot run the program without the volunteers, people whose heart is in the right place,“ Anderson said.

Why do the volunteers come back? Grijalva said,“I come back to be there for someone.  Being here is the minimum. Being here is showing support.”

  • Sarah Hammerling-Wilson

    I am so thankful for the work of these volunteers as well as Encourage Tomorrow. My children, their father, and I attended Kids’ Turn in Summer, 2011 and it dramatically changed our family. Divorce is hard on everyone and this workshop gave us suggestions, skills, and new ideas for co-parenting while offering our children an opportunity to open up with other children who are going through similar situations. This workshop affected the way we communicate with one another and has helped us all adjust. Thank you for highlighting their work!

  • It’s great to see programs that include both the adults and children. Also, teaching parents to individualize their intervention to the needs of the children. One size doesn’t fit all, and this program gets it.