A new documentary about children of divorce by Ellen Bruno has just been released, and it’s terrific. I don’t know how she did it but she managed to have children just speak into the camera in a moving, honest way about their experience as children in the midst of their parents’ divorce, unfiltered by questions or interviewers’ participation. I watched this with one of my adult children and his wife, both of whom had gone through this experience decades ago, and they were both deeply affected. It is so hard for parents to not be so caught up in their own difficulties to be able to see how different their kids’ experience is than they might think. For example, what it’s like going back and forth between mother and father’s house has such a different slant to it when you watch what it’s like for the kids. We all know that co-parenting is preferable to having children raised by one parent, but the toll taken by the back and forth is so stark that it’s impossible not to look again at our deeply held assumptions about it.
Parents who agonize about whether they should stay together because of the kids will have to take seriously the deep pain that children experience when their parents are fighting. For the mediation and collaborative world, this is such a powerful example of the importance to the children of parents getting along with each other, whether it is in the context of staying together or getting a divorce.
Particularly for those of us professionals who don’t meet directly with the children, and are left to understand the situation through the reports of the parents, this film presents a powerful opportunity for us to feel what the children are going through.
Ellen will be presenting at all of the major conferences this fall, the International Association of Conflict Professionals (IACP), Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) and some mediation conferences as well. To learn more about it, you can go to the website for the film, www. splitfilm.org.