It’s been said that spending time with children is more important than spending money on children.
The active presence of a parent in a child’s life is vital in ensuring that child’s well-being, and when parents divorce, the child often blames himself for the marriage’s dissolution. That’s why it’s important to put children first when mom and dad decide to go separate directions, said Oklahoma State Department of Health Child Development Specialist Diane Weston.
“Every parent should keep in mind that a child’s greatest fear is the loss of a parent. So a child’s first concern will likely be if they will ‘lose’ one of their parents,” she said. “The child should be reassured that both parents love them, and that they will be safe. Parents should reassure the child that nothing they did caused the divorce.”
Because people living in Oklahoma are more likely to marry, the chance of divorce increases, according to online reports on the topic. A Census Bureau study released in 2011 placed the Sooner state at the top of the list for divorce, ahead of states like Arkansas, Alaska, Alabama, Kentucky, Nevada and Arizona, to name a few. The study showed divorce in Oklahoma is closely associated with families living in poverty.
Staying together “for the kids’ sake” is never a good idea, said Weston.
“Children don’t learn appropriate coping skills and communication skills when growing up in a dysfunctional home. To a certain extent, arguing in front of the children can be good if they see problems can be resolved in an effective and respectful manner,” Weston said. “However, if there is violence in the home or constant fighting with no resolutions, divorce may be one solution.”
Weston said couples can have a healthy divorce if the focus is on the children and not on “winning.”
“If a parent’s goal is to win, the children become objects, and therefore are often used as a manipulative tool in the divorce,” she said. “A healthy divorce should allow the children to have access to both parents. Parents should understand that no matter how much they may dislike their exes, their children should always be allowed to see their other parent.”
Weston noted children “will grow to resent the parent with whom they live,” if they are not allowed to spend time with the parent not living in the custodial home.
“If there are safety issues during visitation, the custodial parent should make arrangements for the visit to be supervised,” she said.
Cherokee County Special District Judge Sandy Crosslin doesn’t have an opinion on how parents should inform their children about their decision to divorce, but she does hold certain beliefs on what they should and should not do.
“The No. 1 priority to keep in mind is what’s in the best interest of the child when there are children involved in a divorce,” she said. “[Parents should] think about their actions, and how they will affect their children, rather than just how it affects the parent. Keep the child out of the middle. Don’t use the child as a middle person or as a sounding board on adult issues. That’s what I see what would make a huge difference on the children, if the parents would just try to keep adult things adult. They’re not divorcing their children. They’re divorcing each other. If they would look at what is in the best interest of the kids, I think everybody would be better off.”
Knowing how to make decisions in life-changing situations shouldn’t be taken lightly, said Cherokee County Court Appointed Special Advocate Executive Director Jo Prout.
“Parenting and marriage are the two of the hardest things in the world, in my opinion, for any individual to accomplish with grace and confidence,” she said.
Prout and CASA recruiter, trainer and part-time advocate coordinator Sandy Macauley regularly help families experiencing life-changing and sometimes traumatic situations, and they urge parents to always be mindful of their children.
“I’ve been here almost 4-1/2 years, and I’ve learned one of the most traumatic things for a child is separation from a parent, whether it be through an abuse case, divorce or through a death,” said Macauley. “I think parents need to be realistic. They also need to prepare the child [for the divorce], and probably get the child into some counseling during this whole time. They think they did something wrong. A parent can reassure them, ‘It wasn’t you. It was us,’ but that doesn’t necessarily take the belief away from the child.”
Even when the divorce may be viewed as a the right move, mental pressure is still experienced, said Macauley.
“It could be the divorce is a good thing, especially if you’re always fighting with each other and there’s always tension. The children may feel some relief, but they’re also still going to feel some stress,” she said. “I think really have an appropriate, open communication with your children. Be consistent. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, and don’t put the kids in the middle. It’s not your kid’s place to tell you what’s going on with your ex-spouse. We’ve seen cases like that and ... you can’t do that to that child.”
For families unable to afford counseling, Weston and Macauley recommend seeking guidance from a school-based social worker or counselor, or even a church minister.
“The Zoë Institute also has some resources available, and the First Baptist Church in Tahlequah offers divorce care for children and adults,” said Weston. “The First Baptist Church also has a licensed professional counselor on staff who has extensive experience in helping families with divorce. In most cases, Sooner Care Insurance will also pay for counseling services with a licensed counselor. There are several private agencies in Tahlequah that offer counseling services for young children.”
It’s been said that spending time with children is more important than spending money on children.
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Plea deal arranged for ex-fire chief
A former Cherokee County volunteer fire chief has agreed to plead guilty to forgery and embezzlement charges in exchange for a suspended sentence and payment of restitution.
Third Thursday Art Walk
Shoppers will have a chance to visit downtown merchants in the evening during the Tahlequah Main Street Association’s first Third Thursday Art Walk and After Party on Thursday, March 20.
Participating downtown businesses will keep their doors open to offer specials until 8 p.m., and artists will display their work at different locations. Art exhibitors, including the Cherokee Art Center’s Spider Gallery, will stay open late.
Sex offender bill reaches House
By a unanimous 44-0 vote of the Oklahoma Senate, a bill that would make it more difficult for registered sex offenders to change their names has reached the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
Senate Bill 1421, authored by Kyle Loveless, Oklahoma City Republican, underwent its first reading in the House on Feb. 27.
Cherokee County Undersheriff Jason Chennault said he did not know of any instances, during his service with the department, of registered sex offenders evading detection with new names for any length of time.
SB 1497 may aid transparency
Government transparency advocates were pleased, and some were surprised, when a proposed bill designed to strengthen Oklahoma’s Open Meetings Act passed the Senate Judicial Committee recently.
Senate Bill 1497, by Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, would allow citizens who are denied access to public meetings to bring civil lawsuits, and if the court rules in favor, to collect attorney’s fees. A continuing resolution has already been filed.
Should the legislation pass into law, it would become effective Nov. 1 this year.
Moulton: Sovereignty is John Ross’ legacy
When describing the Cherokee people, the words “well-educated” and “independent” may come to mind. Those attributes were principles held most dear by John Ross, principal chief of the Cherokees from 1828-1866.
Dr. Gary Moulton, University of Nebraska Thomas C. Sorensen emeritus professor of American history, discussed Ross’ history during a presentation at the Tahlequah Armory Municipal Center Thursday. The event was organized by the history department at Northeastern State University.
The bear facts
A joint project linking two state agencies with researchers at Oklahoma State University is gathering the “bear facts” on a growing population in the northeastern part of the state.
A six-year study on black bears in Cherokee, Adair and Sequoyah counties is being conducted as a precursor to possible establishment of a controlled hunting season in Green Country. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, and Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management of Oklahoma State University have partnered for the endeavor.
Drug task force seizes K2 at a Tahlequah house
The District 27 Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force seized between $200 and $300 worth of synthetic drugs during a bust Friday.
The Tahlequah Police Department and the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service were also in on the raid. Members of the task force hope the seizure will aid in an ongoing investigation to find larger suppliers.
“We received information that sales were being made from a residence off Choctaw Street,” said Michael Moore, task force director. “Further investigation led to a state search warrant based on the federal Schedule I list of drugs.”
Citizens can report sight obstructions to city
On Feb. 25-26, the Tahlequah Fire Department responded to motor vehicle accidents at South Muskogee Avenue and South Street, and since that time, a few citizens have expressed concern about the sight lines at the intersection.
A visit to the intersection showed that, for traffic westbound on South, the view south down Muskogee is partially obstructed by shrubbery and a tree that appear to be on private property.
Spears: OSRC should help boost business
In a little over 25 years, Arrowhead Resort owner Jack Spears has grown his business from being the smallest float operator on the Illinois River to the second-largest, and he’d like to continue on that path.
Spears believes tourism is vital to the Tahlequah area. He says if the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission would eliminate a zoning issue along the river, both the agency and his own business would reap the benefits.
Spears recently asked the OSRC to consider doing away with recreational floating zones. Commercial flotation device licenses are granted to operators in each area for a total of 3,900 licenses.
Last-place swine earns top sale bid
Local businessmen drew regional attention through a record-setting bid of $10,000 at the Cherokee County Spring Livestock Show last Saturday, but now they say they don’t want the recognition.
The annual show, which ends with a premium sale featuring top winners, is a fundraiser for local FFA and 4-H participants. Proceeds help cover the animals’ expenses or are used for future projects or showings. Community members, organizations and businesses bid on the livestock, but it is not a purchase. The children showing get to keep their animals.
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