By BROOKE SHUNATONA and BEN FRENTZEL
The group met for a third session of the 13-week program at 6 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 13, at the church. The two-hour Monday meetings allow time for divorced or separated adults and their children to discuss weekly topics and how they are dealing with their situations.
Adults are encouraged to pay $10 for their sessions, but children are admitted free. A workbook, videos and discussion times are all parts of the weekly agenda — kids in the basement, parents upstairs.
For the children, it’s not a counseling session, said Jennifer Cook, instructor for DivorceCare for Kids and wife of the church’s pastor Chris Cook.
“They are not victims,” she said. “They are children learning to adjust to a new life.”
Cook described DivorceCare for Kids (DC4K) as a safe place, and the DC4K facilitators are often called “safe-keepers.”
The children, ages 5 to 12, express themselves through song, dance, story time and crafts offered at stations that the children choose. Cook said it’s about empowering them.
As soon as the children walk in the room, they place a Post-It note with their name onto the Herby’s Feelings poster. Their note shares space with an animated depiction of whatever emotion they are feeling that evening.
The children also view and discuss a video that shows real-life divorce situations such as having to turn down a friend’s sleepover because of a joint-custody situation.
Because many of the children come straight from school after-care, snacks are provided so they can focus on their activities.
A Columbia substitute teacher, Treva Herd, leads story time for the kids.
“She’s like Mr. Rogers in a skirt,” Cook said, laughing.
But, the children aren’t the only ones working out their issues in the program.
“If parents are going through divorce, they need to be here,” said Mona Werges, facilitator of the adult DivorceCare program. “We made the decision that kids cannot come without adults.”
For the parents, it’s a chance to face what has happened head-on.
“People hurting from divorce need help,” Werges said. “There’s so much to learn from this.”
Werges, a mother of three sons and two stepsons, went through a divorce of her own 33 years ago. She said she wishes this program had been around for her and her children back then.
Werges said that most of the facilitators have been through divorce. She said it helps them relate because they’ve been through some of the same things.
During a typical adult meeting, snacks are provided and participants watch a 35-minute video which focuses on the topic of the week. They break off into smaller groups and discuss the video and whatever is going on in their lives.
“A lot of them, their spouses cheated on them. And they’re angry, and I would be, too,” said Cook.
Both the adults and children have the opportunity to keep personal journals about their experiences in the sessions. Optional Bible studies are also provided in the participants’ workbooks.
“We don’t force anyone to accept anything if they don’t want to,” Werges said.
Werges assures any interested families that they can easily jump in at any point during the program.
“Come in anytime because each lesson is self-contained,” Werges said.
But, the experience doesn’t have to stop there, she said.
“As time goes on, hopefully there’s some healing, and we want them to come back and go, ‘Ah ha!'” Werges said.
She encourages everyone to take it again because over time, families are able to hear things they weren’t at a place to hear before.
Werges is in her second year as a facilitator serving people in the program. “It’s our way to reach out to the community and do what Jesus did.”