Caught in the Middle: Helping Children Cope with Parental Separation and Divorce

 
9789769530430: Caught in the Middle: Helping Children Cope with Parental Separation and Divorce
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Caught in the Middle is a must read for anyone living with or working with children who have experienced parental separation. The book looks at how children are impacted when their parents separate whether the parents were married or in a common law union. Although the focus is on the experience of children in Jamaica, the issues examined are applicable to children across the Caribbean and elsewhere. The authors draw on their combined 40 years of professional clinical experience as well as local and international research to examine the behaviours and life changes of children and adolescents whose parents separate. Importantly, they also speak to the seldom documented grief and hurt that adult children experience when their parents divorce after many years of marriage. This book has useful information for everyone. It can assist parents to help their children deal with this challenging transition. Mental health professionals can learn how to effectively help children and their families manage their symptoms and distress. Ways in which other professionals the teacher, pastor, lawyer or judge, paediatrician or family doctor can help are also discussed and illustrated. We believe a comprehensive effort from the adults who interact with the child is needed to ensure the child survives the separation and thrives even though there has been a significant loss. Caught in the Middle also speaks directly to children. Included in the book is a chapter for young readers which has a therapeutic story and activities that will help children process and begin to talk about their parents separation a critical step in coming to terms with the changes they are experiencing. To the many children who shared their experiences with us about their broken families . May your stories help others learn from the mistakes and the resourcefulness exemplified in your families. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7)

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About the Author:

Dr Audrey M. Pottinger is senior lecturer in Clinical Psychology in the Department of Child Health at The University of the West Indies (UWI), and hospital consultant in the paediatrics department at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI). She has been specialising in research on parental loss and separation for some 10 years and has published several papers in international and local peer-reviewed journals. Her more recent book is on bereavement loss. Dr Pottinger has worked in the UK and USA and has been practising in Jamaica for over 18 years. She is a member of the Jamaica Psychological Society, the American Psychological Association and the American Counseling Association. Dr Pauline Milbourn CD is a graduate of the University College of the West Indies, class of 1964. She is a Diplomate of the American Academy of Paediatrics, a Fellow of the American Academy of Paediatrics and a Corresponding Member of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Dr Milbourn worked with the Ministry of Health, Jamaica for more than twenty years as the Paediatric Psychiatrist and Director of Child and Adolescent Mental Health. She completed her work with the Ministry in 2006 and now spends some time in private practice. Dr Milbourn was awarded the National Honour, Order of Distinction, Commander Class, in 2006. She is a member of the Paediatric Association of Jamaica, the Jamaica Psychiatric Association, the Medical Association of Jamaica, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Review:

A treatise on the social and psychological effects on children resulting from the dissolution of marriages is timely as divorce seems to be on the increase in Jamaica and elsewhere. Moreover, although common-law unions are part of the fabric of Jamaican society, minimal attention has been directed at helping children from these unions cope with their parents separation. The National Family Planning Board Reproductive Health Survey (of Jamaica) 1997 reveals that women in their reproductive years are most likely to be involved in a visiting union (29%) or a common-law relationship (24%) than to be married (16%). While common-law relationships often lead to legal unions, they are also more likely than marriages to break up. In fact, most children of these unions will see their parents separate by the age of 10 years. Parental loss due to the dissolution of a spousal relationship is considered a psychosocial stressor for children and results in similar changes and risks whether or not the union was legally sanctioned.... Contrary to popular belief, less than one-third of couples divorce because of frequent conflict, and a smaller percentage pursue court proceedings in dispute over their children. These facts notwithstanding, parental separation and divorce cause major disruption to the vast majority of families and can contribute to the country's social ills. Over the past two to three decades, the authors have seen children greatly affected by their parents decision to separate and the ongoing battles for custody, more extreme cases of inappropriate parent and child behaviours, and an increase in children accessing mental health services because of their parents separation. These occurrences are most likely explained by the gradual decline of community support and weakening of the family structure, which result in less support for children. Additionally, pervasive levels of stress and violence that plague the society help explain the marked pathologies seen in these families. Throughout this text, divorce is defined as the dissolution of a legal marriage or common law union. In the first part of the book, the authors combine local and international research and their professional experience to describe long and short term and negative and positive effects of divorce on children, and the diverse ways that parents and the wider community e.g. church, school, co-workers and extended family members are affected by and respond to divorce. In the second half of the book, the focus is on educating parents and other caregivers on how to alleviate the negative impact on children. The reader is taken through practical suggestions with regard to what, when, where and how children should be told about the divorce, when to seek professional help, and some specific dos and don'ts for minimising the impact. As most of the child's days are spent at school and some families get involved in the judiciary process, these two institutions are examined for the role they can play in facilitating the healing of children and families in distress. Paediatricians and family physicians and pastors and counsellors who wish to improve their skills at helping this population are provided with tools such as risk assessment, an interview guide and intervention strategies for working with these children and their families. In order to include resource help for children directly, the book ends with a fictional story written for 8- to 10 year- olds to give them a medium to express and discuss their emotions and help them work through their issues. ---taken from the Authors' Introduction

The title of this book, Caught in the Middle: Helping Children Cope with Parental Separation and Divorce, suggests that it has universal application. Nevertheless, the authors make it clear that there is a cultural reality with which we must reckon if we are to respond appropriately as the title invites us to do. Whether it is a case of cultural denial or a preoccupation with moral and religious ideals, the truth of the matter is that the majority of the children in Jamaican society begin their life in a common-law family type and it is in this context that they are most likely to experience the dissolution of the family.... There are many Caribbean professionals who tend to have a territorial approach to their discipline, failing to appreciate the fact that the human person is a complex creation and defies pigeon-holing by any single discipline. The authors of this book understand this principle very well and so approach their work from an interdisciplinary perspective. The book therefore speaks to religious leaders, members of the legal fraternity, teachers, mental health professionals, indicating not only their distinctive contribution, but how they can work together for the promotion of the well-being of the children of families facing dissolution and the healing of the parents and their relationships. There are aspects of this book which some persons may find disturbing. For some persons it may challenge their perspectives on the nature of family and how one should relate to those family types which do not fall within their definition of what is acceptable and therefore deserving of attention. This may be guided purely by cultural values. There are others who may find this treatment of the subject challenging for some of their religious and moral convictions, especially when the reality of the brokenness of the lives of children and parents requires that empathy move beyond the realm of the polite to concrete engagement and action. One outstanding feature of this book is that it takes a complex subject written by highly trained professionals and makes it into easy reading for a wide audience. To that extent I would propose that this is a book that professionals dealing with parental separation and divorce need to read; students in training in related fields need to have as required reading on their reading list; parents facing the break-up of their families need to consult; and church groups and informal study groups need to consider as an interesting and worthwhile addition to their educational and outreach interests. And, although not presented as a self-help book, it should be read by those whose life experience has been characterized by parental separation and divorce. I commend this book to the reading public and hope that it will get the kind of attention and response which it so rightly deserves. --- taken from Foreword; by the Rt Revd Dr Howard Gregory, Suffragan Bishop of Montego Bay, Psychotherapist

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