Support Group Aims To Help Youth Transition

BERLIN — Worcester Youth and Family Counseling Services (WYFCS) will be unveiling a new program later this month entitled “Rollercoasters,” a support group designed to help children going through family changes make the transition smoothly.

“Rollercoasters addresses kids who are going through a separation or divorce or any kind of family change,” said Dr. Jen Leggore.

While the most common and usually most dramatic family change that Leggore used as an example was divorce, she noted that most any kind of alteration in the family dynamic would be covered by Rollercoasters, which seeks to emphasize the fact that “change can be good.”

“Life is like a rollercoaster,” said Leggore. “There are ups and downs.”

With a separation and divorce, a child’s worldview can be radically altered. Rollercoasters is designed to keep that new view from becoming negative and destructive by focusing on key points that a child needs to understand in the wake of a divorce.

In many cases, Leggore confirmed that countering the inevitable self-blame a youth often feels is one of the first and most important lessons. Another necessary goal is helping the child reach the realization that the change is most likely permanent.

“Kids always have the fantasy,” said Leggore, adding that many expect their parents to overcome their differences even years after the initial separation.

This belief can make it even harder to accept when a new romantic partner enters a parent’s life, she concluded. Once acceptance of the change and the fact that in the majority of cases it won’t be temporary is reached, Rollercoasters’ final goal will be to “help [a child] overcome the sense of loss” and move on with their life, according to Leggore.

A family change response program like Rollercoasters is something that WYFCS has been considering for a long time.

“It’s just something that we’ve never done before … there’s always been a need,” Leggore stated.

Developed by Families First, the Rollercoasters program is built to be accessible to children of almost any age, with WYFCS offering both a 5- to 8-year-old and a 9- to 12-year-old program. It lasts eight weeks and will begin Oct. 23. Leggore hopes to run the groups throughout the year in those eight week segments with a brief break in-between each.

For more information on Rollercoasters, call 410-641-4598 or visit www.gowoyo.org

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