Seeing Divorce Through the Eyes of Children

A Conversation with Expert Christina McGhee About her Exciting New Project

December is Universal Human Rights Month – and our focus this month under this category is children’s rights. We typically think the struggles for human rights are happening in far corners of the world, making it easy to disengage. It may feel hard to relate to Cambodian genocide and the imprisonment of political dissidents in Tibet, and, harder still, to believe we can effectuate any impact. Actually, human rights are at issue in your everyday lives – and the good news is, you are already an activist! Divorce impacts the lives of children, so whether you want to or not, you are impacting the lives of children, too.

Children’s rights are human rights. As a divorce professional, you have the challenge and opportunity to be a human rights activist simply by showing up. If you are serious about your role as a de facto human rights activist – and we think you are – there are two simple and powerful moves you can make to flex your power: (1) understanding how divorce impacts kids, and (2) incorporating more child-centered techniques into your practice.

We’ve made it easy for you! This month, we sat down with an extraordinary professional to discuss the impact of divorce on children, how to raise awareness of this important human rights issue, and where to find exceptional training that will elevate your skills to better serve children (and their parents).

And Now Introducing...

Christina McGhee, MSW is an internationally recognized divorce parenting expert, speaker, and author of “PARENTING APART: How separated and divorced parents can raise happy and secure kids.”  Dedicated to keeping kids out of the middle, she has spent her career educating parents and professionals on how to minimize the impact of divorce on children.

Christina believes that divorce doesn’t make you a bad parent, it makes you a parent going through a bad time.  Passionate about helping parents get through that bad time, she maintains an active coaching practice where she works with co-parents all over the world.

 Christina also serves on the Creative Team for Split and the soon to be released follow up film Split UP as a subject matter expert. Together she and Ellen Bruno co-authored the Split film discussion guide. You can find out more about Christina at https://bit.ly/3pbMGeQ

And Now Introducing...

Renowned documentary filmmaker and human rights activist Ellen Bruno turned her attention to the impact of divorce on children’s rights as she was going through her own divorce. Discover more about Ellen and her work at SPLIT – A Film for Kids of Divorce (and their Parents) about the effects of Divorce on Kids.

Ellen Bruno is an award-winning documentary filmmaker with a background in international relief work. Ellen's films have focused on issues at the forefront of human rights, including sex trafficking in Burma, political prisoners in Tibet, the social alienation of people with leprosy, and genocide, in Cambodia.

Ellen earned an MA in Film at Stanford University. She is a recipient of Guggenheim and Rockefeller Fellowships, a Goldie Award for Outstanding Artists, an Alpert Award for the Arts, and an Anonymous Was A Woman Award for the Arts, and she was an Artist-in-Residence at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.  Ellen serves on the board of the International Buddhist Film Festival, the Pacific Pioneer Fund, and Ethical Traveler.

Ellen turned her attention to the impact of divorce on children as she was going through her own divorce. Discover more about Ellen’s work at splitfilm.org

Check out our interview with Christina

SupportPay: Christina, Split was acclaimed for painting a raw, honest, and powerful portrait of divorce through the eyes of children experiencing it. Tell us about “Split” and how you got connected to the project.

 Christina: When I started working with separating and divorcing parents one of the things I quickly discovered was while there were resources that addressed the topic of divorce, there was a lack of child-centered materials that spoke to the realities of family change.  Lots of materials were good at pointing out problems but not so good at offering practical solutions. It also seemed that the voices of children were also missing from the conversation.

As a result, I’ve spent most of my career trying to bridge that gap by offering information that was practical and focused on how this process feels for children. This is how I met Ellen Bruno and instantly became a passionate supporter of her work. When Ellen was working on the first Split film, she set out to spread the word by contacting professionals doing the work. Luckily, I happened to be one of those professionals. As soon as I learned that Split was a film for kids by kids, I was hooked and eventually signed on as a member of the creative team.

SupportPay: There is a lot of media about divorce. What makes Split different? How has the film changed the divorce landscape?

Christina: While divorce changes almost every part of a child’s life, sadly it’s rarely talked about in a helpful or healing way. Ellen Bruno created Split to let kids know they’re not alone and to normalize the many feelings children experience while providing the reassuring message that it’s okay to talk about how their families have changed.

It features twelve incredibly brave children (6-12 years old) who offer an unfiltered glimpse of what it really feels like for kids when parents part.  Pulling back the curtain on all the unspoken worries children often face, Split is filled with straight from the heart wisdom that provides hope and healing.

Since its release Split has been a driving force in changing conversations for families and professional communities.  It has been enthusiastically embraced by many family court systems, family lawyers, mediators, collaborative law groups and other divorce professionals. Every time Ellen and I have screened the film at conferences and trainings it seems to have a transformational impact on the audience. Some individuals find themselves moved because of their own personal experiences regarding divorce and others are transfixed by the stories these children share.  I think it’s safe to say no one in the room looks at divorce in the same way after watching Split.

SupportPay: Why produce a sequel?

Christina: Over the years Ellen has kept in touch with the kids from the first film and wondered as they have grown and changed: was there still more to their stories? She felt there was and decided to re-interview each child as a young adult. She was able to talk to 11 out of the 12 kids and what she discovered was fascinating.  Even years later after the split, these “children” still had a lot to say.

SupportPay:  At SupportPay, we do not look at divorce like a single event in time, but rather as an entirely new lifestyle. Divorce is highly dynamic, and unfolds in different ways as children go through various developmental stages and experience ongoing changes like moving, or getting a step-parent. What are your thoughts?

Christina: I absolutely agree; divorce is not a single moment event but one that unfolds over time.  It becomes a part of children’s lives and their family story. That doesn’t mean, however, that children are doomed to emotional scaring or a lifetime of dysfunction.  I very much believe that how parents manage the process has a huge impact on how children process divorce. When children are able to openly talk about how their family changes, and have their feelings validated and supported, they can grow up to be resilient and happy.  The truth is, we all face challenges in our lifetime and what we do with them is what defines our experience.

I believe most parents want to support their children and they want to have open and honest conversations, however often they don’t know what to say or how to start the conversation. One of the big problems Split tackles is that it offers parents and kids an opportunity to have meaningful conversations. It is much easier for people to talk about what they see in a film or read in a book than what’s happening in one’s own life. Split helps to break the ice around tough conversations by giving families something to discuss and by initiating those conversations, reassuring kids that it’s okay to talk about these issues.

SupportPay: Split UP is not yet completely funded. How can our amazing community of divorce professionals help?

Christina: Thank you for asking. Anyone can make a donation at our GoFundMe. Even a small amount helps us reach our goal to release Spilt UP. Also, the film can be pre-ordered here:

SupportPay: In addition to supporting Split UP, what is something that divorce professionals can do to learn and incorporate best practices for child-centered divorce?

Christina: Great question. This spring, I am working with the Mosten-Guthrie Academy to launch the Co-Parenting Specialist Training Program. This virtual event will enhance every professional’s experience. We challenge the “what’s always been done” approach and offer the opportunity to see divorce through the eyes of a child, providing unique insight into how to guide parents using a child-centered approach, create a parenting plan that goes beyond custody calendars and holidays, and focuses on the real-life needs of children when parents part. Participants will learn how to go beyond just helping clients divorce, and instead guide them towards rebuilding their families for long-term success.

SupportPay: Thank you for sharing this! We are big supporters of the Mosten-Guthrie Academy for the exceptional access their trainings provide to the nation’s top professionals. How can someone register for this rare opportunity?

Christina: Trainings are scheduled in February and March, 2022. Participants who satisfactorily complete all the requirements of this CoPS Training Program will receive a Certificate of Completion and will be entitled to the use of the CoPS Badge. Space is already filling up, so sign up here while you can: MostenGuthrie

SupportPay: Christina, thank you for sitting with us to share your insight. We appreciate the opportunities to become better advocates for children’s rights by supporting Split UP and signing up for CoPs training. Our entire team thanks you and Ellen Bruno for the work you are doing to elevate the dialogue on children’s rights in divorce.

(a link to the film trailer – SPLIT – A Film for Kids of Divorce (and their Parents)

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