Ms. Remmert, in the Archdiocese of Paderborn you are responsible, among other things, for the “wir2” bond training for single parents. Why is it so important?
Everyone has a need for connection. The separation of two people who are also parents is also experienced as stress by the children. The related children may become troubled by this crisis in their attachment needs. You need mom and dad. Most of the time, however, the children sometimes have to do without a parent. The single parent compensates a lot by becoming a safe haven for the children. Finding constructive ways to do this and finding ways to get along with each other, setting boundaries and letting go, closeness and distance, attachment and autonomy – these are the issues we deal with here.
What should I do?
“Go to the edge” is an important recommendation from Pope Francis. Many single parents feel marginalized in society. They have financial worries, are often unable to participate adequately in social life, and the disputes tie up much of the energy they need for their family and professional responsibilities. We empower the people who take care of their children. People are not in themselves recipients of aid. They want to develop further and – if possible – overcome their crises themselves. We would like to support you in this. Together we look behind the scenes of everyday family life and see what, unfortunately, really goes on sometimes.
Why do children need special help?
When couples fight and break up, few look out for the well-being of their children. Many do not pay attention to how the child feels if they are constantly arguing. When they separate, the children often have loyalty conflicts.
What does the “wir2” loyalty program look like?
Here in Paderborn, over 90 percent of single parents are mothers. The bond between the children and both parents and especially with the single parent remains. The offer, if you accept it, comes with this family phase. It also strengthens the view of internal connections. The “wir2 program” was developed by Matthias Franz from the University of Düsseldorf and is an educational program that also includes psychoeducation. Participants can take many practical things with them. The exchange between each other is very useful. The women support each other and give each other tips.
Who is the offer aimed at?
We offer our psychological services to anyone who is interested. From our statistics, we know that the majority of them are Catholics. However, religious affiliation is not a prerequisite for participation. Due to the corona pandemic, no courses were held, which are also free. But the new online offer, wir-2@home, also takes place in Paderborn and Siegen.
What role does communication play?
In a role play, one module teaches how to listen properly. Listening is really hard. I learned that professionally and would like to pass something on to the participants. They learn to understand their children better and ask themselves questions: What is it like when someone always gives me advice? Or if you are always only with yourself? But when the other person sees, “Oh, you’re upset. Tell me. I’m there for you and I want to listen to you” – then a lot has already been won.
On the course, participants are also encouraged to write a letter to get in touch with the other parent of the child. What’s the point?
Not hiding or ignoring the former partner is very valuable for the course because fathers are part of it. However, from the point of view of the participating mothers, I found the establishment of contact to be very upsetting and at times conflictual. Writing this letter is like a thorn in my flesh. Such a letter can also be perceived as rudeness to the parent who is not present. He might be thinking: What are they doing there in the “wir2 course”? Is there something against me? Because of the adversarial relationships at the ex-couple level, it is usually difficult to make benevolent contact. Fairly thick boards must be drilled here. As a counseling center, we also offer that the father can contact us and also take a look at the children’s attachment problems and how to handle each other well. We are neutral. In some cases this offer has already been used.
Which wir2 exercises do you remember particularly well?
The exercise with the sunny side, where perspectives are shown and positive feedback from the group follows. Everyone sits in a circle. The mothers don’t know each other that well yet. It’s amazing how precise, well-intentioned words so buzz through the room. The mothers are showered with compliments. This is a tax for the participants. We see people thriving here. Wasted pages reappear. eyes shine. The atmosphere generates positive vibrations in them. The sun really does rise for everyone!
For whom does “wir2” make less sense?
An obstacle for single parents is clearly the agreement to participate in the 20 hours over 20 weeks. We make it clear to those interested in advance: We don’t want coincidences, we want commitment, because the lessons and modules build on each other. If you cannot guarantee continuity here, you should rather use the option of individual advice.
The future of the “wir2” courses often depends on the funding opportunities. How is it regulated in Paderborn?
Our employer exempts us from the courses. We do not have to book rooms separately, because the courses take place in the Catholic day care institutions. For the children, we also use gyms or outdoor playgrounds. An additional financial expense arises exclusively for childcare. But these costs do not apply to the planned online courses.
Rocco Thiede conducted the interview in preparation for his book “Let us not alone!” about single parents in Germany, published by Herder Verlag in 2022.
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