Our office will be closed on Wednesday, February 20, 2019, due to inclement weather.
Stay safe and warm! The NVMS Team
These days single-parent families are a common family form. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 41% of births in 2010 were to unmarried women and the divorce rate from 2000 through 2012 was half the marriage rate. This shift in family forms has potential consequences on the life not only of the parents but also of their children.
Potential Impact of Separation on Children
The child’s feelings, thoughts, and behavior could be influenced by their family’s arrangement or a family transition. The way this impact is expressed varies greatly depending on the children’s age, gender, personality, and also on contextual factors. Infants may change their sleeping or eating patterns, become more easily irritated, and cry more. Toddlers could demonstrate behaviors they had long abandoned and become more insecure. This fear of abandonment is also present in school age children, who may also feel angry or sad. At this point, the child’s academic performance may also be negatively affected – which is possible throughout adolescence. Additional common themes in research are a post-separation increase in the adolescent’s delinquent behavior and a negative impact on their psychosocial well-being, which can be manifested as depression, anger, decreased self-esteem, and even thoughts of suicide. Lastly, research shows that increased family conflict affects some adolescents’ views on interpersonal relationships and thus their ability to form intimate bonds.
Making the Best of a Challenging Situation
However, it is imperative to note that there is no indication that the parental separation alone provokes those phenomena. The literature suggests that adolescents who exhibit the aforementioned behaviors were classified as being at risk for numerous other reasons, hence the separation simply served as a triggering factor. In other words, a change in family structure is a big stressor that may have a detrimental effect on some adolescents’ coping skills. Yet, the impact of parental separation in their offspring’s life does not have to be a negative one; on the contrary, it can be an opportunity for them to demonstrate their resilience. Indeed, many children demonstrate a remarkable ability to cope and thrive in any family structure. It is thus crucial for parents and educators to implement the necessary strategies that will cultivate the child’s strengths and also create the conditions that will allow them to demonstrate those strengths.
In order to help children to deal with the effects on separation and/or divorced, parents need to establish a healthy relationship with an effective parental communication. Going through divorce may involve dealing with a conflict that promotes negative emotions to both parents. Therefore, parents’ communication should be child-focused, shifting the focus of each other to the child or children. It is important for parents to be aware of their emotional and financial responsibilities and focus on the child’s needs instead of focusing in the negative aspects of separation and divorce. One form to make this successful is making use of mediation as a resource that helps parents to reach agreements in regard to custody, visitation and parenting options.
Mediation for Co-Parents
Mediation as a neutral process helps parents to address the issues they may have during this tough period of their lives in a safe and comfortable environment. The mediator will help parents to focus on the best interest of their child and will empower them to find solutions that will work best for all the people involved. Mediation may also help to improve the communication between the co-parents which allows them to make better decisions for their child’s future.
Separation and/or divorce affects every person in the family and it may have negative consequences for the children. However, when parents handle the situation in a constructive way, they can raise children who feel more confident in themselves and are able to establish long and lasting relationships.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). National marriage and divorce rate trends.
- Fairfax County Public Schools. (2016). Co-Parenting: Two parents, two homes. p5-10
- Hartman, L.R., Magalhães, L., & Mandich, A. (2011). What does parental divorce or marital separation mean for adolescents? A scoping review of North American literature. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 52, 490-518.
- Rodgers, K. B., & Rose, H. A. (2002). Risk and resiliency factors among adolescents who experience marital transitions. Journal of Marriage and Family, 64, 1024-1037.
The Fairfax County Alternative Accountability Program (AAP) uses Restorative Justice (RJ) conferencing to engage first-time offender youth, ages 10-17, in a facilitated process focused on accountability and repair of harm. Here are a few of its successes since the initial AAP pilot in 2014:
- Recidivism rate of 7% as compared with statewide average of 49% for juvenile crime;
- Victims have a voice in the outcome;
“I enjoyed that there was a plan to ensure accountability for his actions… This program is great because it allows me to have an input on what happens.” – a participant evaluation comment by a store worker addressing a shoplifting issue through AAP
- Youth who complete AAP don’t have a court record, saving them from potential lifelong consequences of having a record and its potential impact on high school graduation, college admission, scholarships, employment, and future public service; and
- This summer, NVMS and its partners in the Fairfax County Police, Juvenile Courts, Schools, and Neighborhood and Community Services, expanded the Fairfax County Alternative Accountability Program (AAP) Countywide and added the Police Departments of Vienna, Herndon and the City of Fairfax as partners.
With your help, NVMS is tackling youth crime and the school-to-prison pipeline in Fairfax County. We are helping youth take responsibility for their actions and repair harm done to victims. We are keeping eligible kids out of the criminal justice system while reducing future offenses.
- Provide a safe, respectful, and positive environment for members to exchange ideas and problem solve challenges they encounter in their practice.
- Build a network of peers and experts in the field that can serve as a resource.
- Explore and share best practices, models, tools, and theories that enhance subject matter knowledge and practical approaches.
- Enhance your reflective practice and refine skills with challenge sessions on fundamental and advanced topics.
Become a leader in our community!
This is your opportunity to shape what your continuing professional development looks like.
- COP leaders: 2-3 individuals, 5-10 hrs/month
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- Contacting and coordinating speakers
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- Creating a quarterly calendar of events
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- Position location: 25% in the office (planning meetings), 75% remote
- Manage the technical and administrative aspects of the community:
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- Present on various topics
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Sometimes, what is really important when you are in conflict is having the grace to let go. This is an ability that does not come naturally to everyone. Geoff Drucker shares his experience on gaining the emotional control and wisdom needed to move on below:
Differences arise in every relationship. When all goes well, we iron them out through honest, respectful dialogue; or, if we need a little help, we call in a mediator to improve communication.
But sometimes dialogue is pointless or counterproductive, or would be impractical or impossible to arrange. The techniques required to respond to these situations are just as important, if not more so, than the interpersonal relations skills commonly taught in classes on negotiation, mediation, or conflict resolution. They don’t get us to “yes,” but they can heal past wounds and avoid future ones.
As a teenager, I was fascinated by martial arts moves I had seen in films and on television. At the time studios with beginner classes were few and far between on the East Coast. So upon arriving in California for college I registered for Chinese Kenpo, eager to gain new athletic skills and become proficient in self-defense.
Day one was hugely disappointing. The instructor led us through a simple drill in which one person threw a punch in ultra slow motion while the other stepped aside and moved away from the attacker. My grandmother could have done this. We repeated this drill over and over and over again. I thought seriously about leaving in protest. Bruce Lee never walked away from a fight like a sissy!
He also died really young.
Enlightenment eventually arrived: The instructor did not want to teach hormone-infested adolescent brains how to punch and kick until they were hard-wired to avoid or minimize a physical confrontation whenever possible. Kenpo emphasizes self-control and promoting your own well-being and the well-being of others. Violence is a last resort.
This training has been enormously helpful in addressing both physical and verbal threats to which disengaging was the only sensible response. The key is learning to shift the field of battle from external “enemies” to inner demons, such as outrage and righteous indignation, that incite bad choices. Fortunately, like external bullies, if these inner demons don’t get their way they eventually give up.
Post-graduation, I began to see that there was a whole lot more to professional and personal success than the substantive knowledge conveyed in college classes. A seminar I took to help fill in the gaps took us through a process for becoming “complete” in a relationship–unburdened by past events–even if the other person was unwilling or unable to discuss what transpired. This training has also been life-altering.
In today’s highly polarized environment, learning how to let go and move on is as important as ever. Differences of opinion can fuel an enriching debate. But different sets of facts and sharply contrasting ideas about what constitutes truth can easily touch off an explosion. Until we can speak with each other civilly, we are best off occupying parallel universes in relative peace.
Teaching and training in conflict resolution should reflect this reality. We should never stop believing that it is best to seek mutually agreeable solutions through open, honest communication. But the best should not be the enemy of the better. We must also prepare students to be as effective as possible in situations where the outcome is destined to be sub-optimal.
There is a time to come together. And there is a time to remain apart. To stay safe and whole, we need to know how to do both well and how to get the timing right.
Geoff Drucker is our Secretary on the NVMS Board of Directors. NVMS strives to have a board which represents the community we serve in a variety of demographic and geographic ways.
Geoff Drucker is the Manager of Dispute Resolution Services for the American Health Lawyers Association. He is an adjunct professor at both George Washington University’s School of Law and George Mason University’s School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution.
Geoff is a speaker, trainer, and mediator. He lives in Arlington, Virginia, with his wife, Michele Werner, his step-daughter, Hannah Petitti, and his son, Jackson.
Read more about Geoff and his book, “Resolving 21st Century Disputes – Best Practices for a Fast Paced World” on his website.