Family Bridges is a four-day educational program — a workshop — that takes place in a vacation setting, like a hotel or resort. The workshop is private, just for one parent and his or her children. No other families are present during your workshop.
Family Bridges helps children become comfortable with the idea of living with a parent whom the children feel they do not want to live with. When a judge orders that you will be living with a parent you don’t like, or the parent whom you are used to being with can no longer take care of you, you might not be very happy with these changes. The Family Bridges workshop makes it easier to adjust to the changes. One way the workshop does this is to help you and the parent you will be living with learn how to get along better, communicate better, solve problems better, and manage your conflicts.
The workshop has been around since 1991. With this many years of experience, the people who lead the workshop have learned how to make the experience as positive and enjoyable as possible.
They are especially careful to avoid embarrassing you. Although the workshop leaders are professionals, such as psychologists and counselors, the workshop is more like school than like therapy or counseling. But there are no tests and homework. Also, unlike counseling, we do not expect you and your parent to rehash your complaints about each other. Instead, you will learn things that other children don’t learn until they get to college. And the workshop is, to many children’s surprise, fun.
Best of all, by the end of the workshop most children feel relieved that the war between them and their parent is over. From now on they can be like other kids who can give and receive love from both parents.
If your parent, a judge, or someone else wants you to participate in a Family Bridges workshop, this page can help you know what to expect. It is natural to worry about participating in any new experience, including a program such as Family Bridges. Most children who attend Family Bridges did not decide on their own to attend, and they do not look forward to the workshop. But studies have shown that even though children begin the workshop not expecting to like it, by the end of the workshop they feel a lot better about it. In fact, nearly 9 out of 10 children (89%) felt better about the workshop after they have had a chance to see what it was like.
One thing children and teens like about Family Bridges is that they help to control the pace of the program, such as deciding when to take breaks. Also, most children appreciate that the workshop’s goal is to help you have a positive relationship with the parent you have been rejecting without harming your thoughts and feelings about the other parent.
The workshop aims to help you develop balanced, realistic and compassionate views of both parents rather than thinking that one of your parents is all good and the other all bad.
By the end of the workshop, a majority of children rated it as “good” or “excellent.” Almost every participant thought the workshop leaders treated the children with respect and kindness. In just a few sad cases, children were not able to use the workshop to get past their family problems. But most children were able to use what they learned to recover a rewarding relationship with the parent they had been rejecting. A teenage boy who had been rejecting his mom said, “This changed my life.” A preteen girl who had rejected her dad said, “This is the best day of my life.”
After the workshop most families go on a vacation together, thrilled to be able, once again, to enjoy each other’s company.