By Jennifer Knudtson
Board Member, Children’s Rights Council of Illinois
My journey with support groups started shortly after I married, when I joined one for stepmoms.
The reassurance I felt from having other faces in the room, all nodding in agreement while I spoke about our blended family issues, was immeasurable.
As I watched my husband’s case unfold in the family law court system, my eyes were opened to the many opportunities for reform including the “winner take all” mentality that subverts the children’s needs to that of the parents.
Eventually, with help from Children’s Rights Council of Illinois, I got in contact with others in my area who were interested in affecting change in family courts.
The parents who have walked into our support group meetings have learned a lot, but not as much as I have learned from them.
Leading this group over the past year and a half, I have learned:
- A lot of dads just give up fighting in the courts to have sufficient parenting time with their children under the psychological duress of litigation.
- Moms can be alienated from their children too, and suffer just as much as the divorced dads.
- Putting the research of child development specialists into the hands of a nonresident parent can give them hope and objectives to reach in order to do what is right for their children.
- We are making a difference by providing a support system to those mothers and fathers who have no one else in their lives that can relate to the chaos and demoralization they are experiencing.
Support groups are probably not what most family law activists would immediately think of as a way to affect change in family courts and child custody laws.
As a support group leader and family law activist in Illinois, I have witnessed the many benefits of support groups including:
- Parents helping each other by identifying a dedicated attorney, an astute therapist or a responsive judge.
- Parents sharing successful strategies for communicating with an ex-spouse and parenting, even in a contentious relationship.
- Parents educating attorneys, mediators and law enforcement officials on the long-term effects of contentious divorce issues on children.
When someone joins a support group, they typically aren’t emotionally ready to focus on advocacy.
Once their case ends, however, they start to heal and see the importance of advocating for change in the system so that their children’s children don’t have to travel the same hurtful, frustrating road that they have just traveled.
Consider seeking out a support group in your area or giving back to your community by starting one!
If you are in the Chicagoland area, we’d love to see you at one of our CRC-IL Shared Parenting Advocacy and Support Groups.
Jennifer Knudtson is on the Board of Directors of the Children’s Rights Council of Illinois. CRC-IL is dedicated to collaborating with others to advance shared parenting solutions for children and the adoption of best parenting practices for separated parents. Contact the Children’s Rights Council of Illinois at email@example.com for more information on how you can help.
www.crckidsillinois.org | Phone: 312-869-9310