Support for children and parents during separation or divorce
by Joyce Rempel
The haunting statistics of divorce in North America show an increasing number of divorces among adults whose parents divorced. If healing from divorce can happen at the initial trauma, the chance of future healthy relationships for those children goes up exponentially. It is for this reason, Cornerstone of Hope exists.
As Sunday School teachers, Dennis and Irene Sanders noticed many kids who were there, but just not ‘present’. These were children experiencing loss due to divorce, so they started using a program designed to help kids talk about their emotions. However, “We needed more activities,” Dennis says. “If we could get them working with their hands, their mouth starts talking, so we’d get them talking around today’s topic.”
God eventually led them to compile a new curriculum for children. “We got a lot of help from a lot of friends,” Dennis says. Psychologists, schoolteachers, and group facilitators contributed their expertise. “Irene and I just became the editors.” The result is the very effective HeartZone and Thrive programs.
HeartZone helps children realize their self-worth, accept what has taken place in their families, and get on with being a child. The Thrive program helps teens work through the effects of their parent’s divorce on their life.
The interactive group sessions are fun, energetic and intense. They find new friendships and support. Adults also need healing, so their programs run concurrently with the kids’ programs.
Cornerstone of Hope believes a distinct Christian view will bring the net of safety, the grace of hopefulness, and the ultimate healing of forgiveness to each family member enduring death, separation, or divorce.
“For adults, we use Divorce Care, from Church Initiative,” Dennis explains. “It’s about emotional healing.” Other classes include Transformation by Dr. Grant Mullen, Boundaries by Drs. Cloud and Townsend; The Smart Stepfamily by Ron Deal; Single and Parenting, and Grief Share.
The Sanders want attendees to know Cornerstone of Hope is a sanctuary, a safe place. “There’s no judgment here. What happened to you is a terrible thing and we’re here to support your family.”
This brings immense relief to participants like Alison Nash. She had clinical depression, brought on by the loss of her marriage due to her spouse’s unfaithful betrayal. “God led me to Cornerstone of Hope,” Alison says. “When I attended the first meeting, I knew I was in a place I wanted to be.” Although nervous, scared, and feeling hopeless, she immediately experienced glimpses of hope, understanding, and care. “It was a lifesaver!”
Sarah Moss became a single parent when she separated from an abusive spouse. “When I found the Cornerstone programs,” she says, “I found hope.” As she and her sons attended, they found healing. “My children improved their Emotional Intelligence, and learned language to express how they feel, even in the hardest of circumstances. They’ve made long-lasting friends and regularly use the tools to regulate and express their emotions.” Sarah became a facilitator for both children and adult groups and now serves on the Board of Directors.
“My son was getting into a lot of trouble,” Gerry Merk says, “and my daughter was acting as the peacekeeper.” Both kids were having issues in decidedly different ways. At Cornerstone of Hope, it took time, but all three of them found healing and help. Gerry eventually saw a noticeable improvement in their mood, behaviour and attitude. “Now they look forward to going and have developed some amazing friends.” His ex-wife even brings the kids to Cornerstone on the weeks they are with her. “That is probably the best endorsement I can think of,” he smiles.
Cornerstone of Hope has helped more than a thousand children through their programs. The exact number of adults is harder to quantify, because it’s common for participants to repeat the programs.
Alison agrees, “I attended multiple semesters of Divorce Care and Boundaries. Each semester brought a new stage of healing and hope.”
Kids also attend multiple sessions. They face changing emotions, hormones, and a growing understanding, re-living the pain and grief of the divorce repeatedly as they mature.
Michelle’s children have been through eight semesters of lessons and like the activities, games, and crafts, “Because it helps me learn about my feelings” and “It helps me deal with anger and molds my heart in a better way.” Michelle says it has helped heal their hearts, put words to their feelings, and given them confidence to talk about everything. “Cornerstone has made all the difference in our lives.”
Spaces are still available for Cornerstone’s Family Retreat at a restored 1890s hotel in Trout Lake, BC. Mornings are spent going through Cornerstone programs, and families enjoy summer activities the rest of the day. It runs July 26-30 and costs each family about $350, depending on the number of children.
Regular classes begin in September and January at First Assembly Church. Sessions are Thursday evenings for 12 weeks. “But we’d like to see every church in Canada doing this,” says Dennis. Not only does it strengthen families, it also brings people into the church. “We’re growing the Kingdom this way,” Dennis says. “We’ll train you and support you.” Dennis and Irene have led Cornerstone of Hope since 1993, but they are retiring in October, so the Board is currently seeking a new Program Director.
Cornerstone of Hope depends on donations and fundraising to cover operating costs. Please consider donating via the website or through Canada Helps.
You can also volunteer as a facilitator, assist the Board, do marketing, help with events, or create videos and content for Social Media.
For more info, visit www.cornerstoneofhope.ca or call 403-289-8555.