Alanna Fine, MSW
“Shalom*, why are your parents divorced?” I overheard my son’s friend ask him during a playdate. And the questions continued: “What does divorce mean?” “Where is your father?”
At that point, I felt the need to intervene. A large part of me was left wondering why his parents didn’t explain what divorce was and why we had to be his introduction to the topic. It can be challenging to navigate the path of being a child of divorce in the religious community.
What I wish every observant person knew about divorce:
- Our families and our children need compassion, acceptance, understanding, and warmth – not pity. This is another life challenge. Children should not be led to believe that there’s something wrong with their home or with them.
- Please extend an invitation to us for yomim tovim and Shabbos. Many times we don’t have meals and don’t feel comfortable inviting ourselves out. Please reach out to us and ensure that we have a place.
- Ideally, every shul should have a program in place that assists families with someone designated to sit with our children in shul, without single parents having to scramble around to find someone. It’s devastating for our children to sit alone in shul because of the mechitza. They feel out of place, unwelcome, and awkward.
- Please recognize that children need both parents in their lives and avoid alienating a child from their parent, particularly if that parent is no longer religiously observant. Parental alienation has infiltrated the frum community – from within the community and from the other parent. Provided that the parent in question has been deemed functional by professionals and the court, every effort should be made to include both parents in a child’s life.
- It is best when the community includes both parties in invitations to simchas, rather than taking sides and excluding one party. It’s painful to no longer be invited to brisim, bar mitzvahs, etc. Also, when one ex-spouse complains about the other, it would be better for friends and acquaintances to remain neutral and empathetic, and not get involved with disagreements, or disclose what the other party has said.
- Please educate your children about divorce. We shouldn’t have to.
- It is crucial to develop an understanding of domestic violence and offer support to victims and their families. I personally know divorced women who left violent marriages and were told by the community to go back to their husbands, who were supported by the community.
- Establish progressive methods for obtaining a get and have true consequences put in place for someone who refuses to give one.
- Divorce does not mean there is something wrong with a person; it means the marriage didn’t work out.
- As a divorced female, I have been on the receiving end of inappropriate and suggestive comments from married men. This is appalling and should never take place.
- Please recognize that men are fully capable of being caretakers of children. To suggest or assume that a divorced father is incapable of being a primary care-giver does everyone a disservice.
- We need more resources and organizations that are dedicated to helping us navigate through a divorce-before, during, and after. Specifically, free or low-cost legal aid, loans for education, daycare services for parents returning to work, employment assistance, funding and resources to leave an abusive situation, programs dedicated to children of divorce, community support, support groups, and mentoring programs.
* Indicates name has been changed in order protect privacy.
This article incorporated suggestions from members of the Divorced Frum Singles Facebook group.
About the Author: Alanna is a clinical social worker who lives in Los Angeles with her son. She is involved in advocacy, awareness, and empowerment to initiate system wide change for the divorced community. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org