Richard S. Victor, Esq.
Starting almost seven
years ago in Oakland County, Michigan, an experimental program known
as "SMILE" (State Making It Liveable For Everyone) was
created by the Honorable Edward Sosnick of the Oakland County,
Michigan, Circuit Court and GRO Founder, Attorney Richard S. Victor.
SMILE is education for parents who are going through separation
and/or divorce. The
educational material involved with this program assists adults in
recognizing what parents and children go through following separation
and divorce and provides useful suggestions on how to make this most
difficult period more liveable. It
provides positive suggestions on how the family of a child(ren) can
help the child(ren) through this most difficult and emotional roller
coaster in their life.
members, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc., also learn how
children, at each developmental stage in their life, will adjust and
internalize the divorce process.
Many children who
have been interviewed as part of this project say that when they find
out that their parents are separating and/or divorcing they feel as if
they've been subject to a "drive-by shooting".
They become victims of decisions made by others without any
input from them, despite the significant impact those decisions
have on their own lives. Adults
who have the opportunity to receive this divorce education learn what
they go through during separation and/or divorce, as well as what
their children experience.
The five stages of
grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) are
discussed with an understanding of how children will respond while
they going through these five different stages.
Adults, at the same time, are going through this grief process.
Through the education they receive from SMILE adults learn how
to cope with their own lives, as well as how to help their children.
greatest gift you can give your children is the right to
love the other parent."
Richard S. Victor
education programs have been started, since the inception of SMILE,
throughout the United States. Many
of these programs utilize a video which embodies the teachings of
SMILE known as "Listen to the Children".
This video was produced by the Family Law Section of the State
Bar of Michigan. It has
been disseminated throughout the United States and is currently used
in many colleges/universities, as well as mental health facilities as
part of or supplement to parent education programs regarding divorce
education throughout the country. Many counties in different geographic areas have made a
parent education program (such as SMILE) or the viewing of the
"Listen to the Children" video
mandatory before parents can receive a divorce if they have
minor children. The
program teaches parents that despite the fact that they may be
divorcing that they are the parents to the same children and will be
the grandparents to the same grandchildren.
They are and they will be tied to each other for the rest of
their lives. So their
respect (or non respect) that they show to each other during the
divorce and separation process will most probably govern their code of
conduct for years to come.
education programs helps adults (parents, grandparents, and other
concerned individuals) recognize the feelings that they have during
the divorce and separation process are similar to those of the other
spouse. However, it is
essential not to allow illogical behavior that comes as a reaction to
the feelings of betrayal, disappointments, anger and resentment which,
in many instances is a result of the divorce process, to interfere
with the parents responsibilities with the child(ren). Parents and other interested adults in a child's life, must
recognize that the child(ren) has a need to love both parents and
their grandparents. They
have too, they need too, even parents who many not always deserve that
SMILE, as well as
most other divorce or parent education programs which are now in
almost every state in the country, have one common goal which they ask
all adults to recognize: The
greatest gift you can give your children is the right to love the
other parent. When adults do this, they open a door for children that can
never be closed. They
give permission to their children to rise above the divorce and
separation tragedy which has effected their family and to recognize
that though their life may be changing, it does not necessarily mean
they have lost their family.
education programs and the forty-seven minute video entitled
"Listen to the Children" are helpful to grandparents so that
they can better understand what their children and their grandchildren
are going through following separation and divorce.
SMILE teaches that parents may be divorcing each other, but
they are not divorcing their children.
Suggestions on how to
keep the breakup of a family from ruining the lives of children
Don't use the children as pawns to hurt
the other side.
speak negatively about the other parent or put the
children in the position of having to take sides.
use the children to carry messages to the other
the children that the divorce is not their fault, it's the
parents doing. Answer
their question together, if possible.
argue in front of the children.
discuss child support in front of the children.
not bad mouth the other parent so that a child hears this.
the children that they are loved and they will be taken care
the other parent in school and other important activities.
the relationship between the child(ren) and the other parent.
not attempt to cut a child off from his or her grandparents
simply to get even with the other side.