Life changing impact for kids at Rainbows

The boy is 12. His dad just picked him up from school. It’s ‘his’ night. The boy throws his backpack in the rear seat and jumps in beside his dad.

And it begins… the harangue about ‘mom’ and how she’s ruining his life by demanding so much child support. More harangue about who she’s dating. More about how he’s trying to juggle it all.

Or, girl is 6 and mom is packing her suitcase for her ‘daddy weekend’ and all the while mom complains about how dishonest the father is, picking up with that woman from the office, and ruining her life, making them live in poverty.

We all know, or maybe we’ve been or are, the parent who’s treating their kid(s) like a tennis ball, bouncing their emotions back and forth, shunting them between blame and guilt for something for which they had no role or control.

And, in all of that, where is the kids’ grief? Where do they get to feel bad, mad, angry, and have that be okay with both their parents? Can they cry about their dad and be consoled by their mom? Or vice versa? And what about their grandparents? How do kids mourn reduced or threatened access to their grandparents?

The complexity of  divorce and separation, the pain to the adult partners, their anger, and the myriad of arrangements can consume the family, leaving no safe emotional place for the kids.

Or, if you’re a kid in a military family and your parent has been deployed to a wartorn country for a long, long time… where do you share that anxiety, your worry about your mom or dad’s safety. Or, what if your parent is in jail?

And that’s why, 22 years ago, a Barrie Codrington Public School teacher, Thelma Cockburn, attended a conference and learned about a program designed to help kids grieve and heal from separation and divorce. She investigated the program, brought it back to Barrie, pilotted it at Codrington, trained teachers all over Simcoe County to offer the program in their schools.

And since 1991, Rainbows for All Children Canada, has helped 2,833 children in Barrie. That’s 2,833 children who have been able to attend the 14 week program, at either a school or a satellite location.  That’s 2,833 children who may have avoided depression and anxiety, who may not resort to bullying, who may go into marriages themselves that are more positive.

The impact of the Rainbows program is huge and the Barrie office raises funds, trains teachers, and helps kids and their families all across Simcoe County.  They do this on a budget of $8000 a year.

Brenda Cockburn, Rainbows’ Simcoe County marketing director, says that the cost of each kit for each child is $50, and Rainbows underwrites $30 of that.  The remainder is raised by the schools or the satellite locations.

This registered charity works quietly behind the scenes. Teachers and Educational Assistants identify kids who may be experiencing tumult during a family breakup and together with parents they discuss and offer the Rainbows program. In 2012, 317 children participated in Barrie, over 600 in Simcoe County.

The programs at the schools are usually held during lunch hours. The satellite locations, such as Collier St Church and the Ontario Early Years Centre on Ross St offer evening sessions.

Brenda says that one school in the south end was without a Rainbows program until the organization could find a volunteer teacher to take the training and run the sessions. When the program started, there were 60 children ready to register.

Rainbows is offered free of charge to children and their families, and is offered at the elementary and secondary school level. Of course, the program shifts, too, and is age appropriate for children from three to teenage years.

How proactive is this? Very! It helps parents move through their own grief while their kids cope with theirs. And the results are forever.

Thanks, Thelma, for seeing the need and making the effort. Thanks, Brenda and the team for making it happen, day after day after day after…