Helplessness, frustration, abandonment, and loneliness: All words that could be used to describe the feelings of someone dealing with a divorce. Multiply those feelings by the lack of understanding that a child has when dealing with their parents’ separation, and you have a large segment of the population that needs help working through a traumatic moment in their lives.
To help meet that need in the Yankton area, the Calvary Baptist Church recently began offering DivorceCare for Kids. Held Tuesday nights at 6:45 p.m. in the Calvary Baptist Church Youth Theatre, DivorceCare for Kids offers youth chances to come together to work through the issues brought on by a divorce or separation.
“This program started when we received a call from an employee at the Women's and Children's Shelter saying that they saw a need in the community and there was not a program that they could offer,” said Terry Port, associate pastor at Calvary Baptist. “She had called out to Lewis and Clark and also to the other counselors in town and as far as she could find there was nothing in town being offered for the children affected by divorce. She had done research on the programs and said the best programs she could find were faith-based. So, she approached us and asked us if we would be able to offer a program like this.”
Port – who came to Yankton from a church in Cambridge, Minn. – was familiar with the DivorceCare for Kids program, as it was a program that was offered at his last church.
Dedicated to children age 5-12, DivorceCare for Kids is designed to help children work through the hurt caused by a divorce or separation of their parents.
Calvary Baptist has chosen to offer the program twice this school year. The first 13-week session is entering its seventh week, with the second session scheduled to begin January 5.
“The program runs for an hour and 45 minutes and each week addresses a different topic,” said Laura Kotalik, Children's Ministry Director. “The programs deal with topics ranging from answering questions about what is happening to their families, to facing anger, developing money smarts and loving their parents. Each week we work through the workbook and, depending on the age of the child, we will either work together or on an individual basis.”
Port and Kotalik stressed that this program is non-denominational, and they actually expect the majority of the participants to be non-church members.
“We want to keep the ratio of children per adult in the three or four to one range,” Port said. “Which is why we have limited the number of participants to 20. We wanted to have the staff.
“The people we have helping right now have all had experience with divorce, be it themselves or as a child, plus we also have a councilor that helps with the classes.”
Kotalik said in many situations the children will take the course more than once because each time they work through issues they are at a different stage of recovery. She noted in other communities where the program has been offered that is the norm rather than the exception.
The two said that even though the evening is about healing, they also try to make it as fun and relevant for the children as they can.
“The evening opens with sign-in and job sign-up,” Kotalik said. “Then we have music, stretches, a DVD drama set in a camplike setting where the children are working through the issues. We do small group interaction, have bible stories on DVD and group activities, as well as working through the workbook.”
Kotalik said that even though the age groups range from age 5 to age 12, each child will be able to work at their own level.
“One of the ways we work with the different age ranges is the older kids can work independently on their pages and with the younger kids you will read it to them and work on it together,” she said. “Some parts of it where it is a journaling page, the little kids will just draw a picture or very simple sentences, where as the older kids will do a lot more writing. We also have supplemental pages that you can pull in for the older children.”
In an effort to help as many children as possible, Calvary Baptist has made an effort to get informational material out to the community.
“We have sent letters home with children in our Wednesday evening program and have also talked with the school counselors,” Kotalik said. “We also have made the information available to our Parent's Night Out group and we are getting the pamphlets to all the counselors in the area.”
Calvary Baptist also offers an associate divorce care program for adults and a grief share program.
Kotalik said non-members attend many of the programs offered at Calvary Baptist and she hopes that anyone needing help dealing with a divorce will take advantage of the program. She added that people can join the program at any point in the session; they do not need to wait until the next one starts in January.
“Divorce is such an emotional issue,” Port said. “For everyone there is a lot of pain and it takes a while to work through it. We are just trying to offer a program to help fill that need in the community.”