Mrs. Rimmert, in the Diocese of Paderborn, you are responsible for, among other things, the “wir2” course on bonding for single parents. Why is that so important?
Everyone has attachment needs. The separation between two people who are also parents is also subjected to stress from the children. Attached children can feel distressed by this crisis in their attachment needs. You need a father and a mother. However, most of the time, kids have to let go of a parent sometimes. A single parent makes a lot of money in order to become a safe haven for the children. Finding constructive ways to do that and finding ways to get along well with each other, setting boundaries and letting go, proximity and distance, attachment and independence – these are the issues we’re dealing with here.
What should I do?
“Go to the sidelines” is an important recommendation of Pope Francis. Many single-parent families feel marginalized in society. They have economic concerns, are often unable to participate adequately in social life, and conflicts gather a lot of the energy they need for their family and professional responsibilities. We empower people who take care of their children. People are not, in and of themselves, recipients of help. They want to develop further and – if possible – to overcome their own crises. We would like to support you in this. Together we look behind the scenes of everyday family life and see what happens unfortunately sometimes.
Why do children need special help?
When couples quarrel and break up, few of them monitor the well-being of their children. Many do not pay attention to what the child is doing if they are constantly arguing. When children separate, they often have a loyalty struggle.
What does the wir2 loyalty program look like?
Here in Paderborn, more than 90 percent of parents are mothers. The bond remains between children and both parents and especially with the single parent. The offer, if you accept it, accompanies this family stage. It also strengthens the visibility of internal links. “wir2” was developed by Matthias Franz of 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 beneficial. The women support each other and give each other some advice.
To whom is the offer directed?
We offer our psychological services to anyone who is interested. We know from our statistics that the majority of them are Catholics. However, religious affiliation is not a prerequisite for participation. Due to the corona pandemic, no free courses are held by the way. But the new online show, wir-2@home, is also happening in Paderborn and Siegen.
What role does communication play?
In a role-playing game, one unit teaches how to listen correctly. Listening is really hard. I learned this 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 one is always with oneself only? But when the other person sees, “Oh, you’re sad. Tell. I’m there for you and I’ll listen to you”—then a lot has already been gained.
In the course, participants are also encouraged to write a letter to communicate with the other parent of the child. what is the point?
Not hiding or ignoring the ex-partner is very valuable to the cycle, because parents are a part of it. But from the participating mothers’ perspective, I felt that making the connection was very annoying and sometimes paradoxical. Writing this letter is like a thorn in my body. Such a message may also be seen as rudeness to the parent who was not present. He might be thinking: What are they doing there in “wir2 course”? Is there anything against me? Because of conflicting relationships at the level of the former spouses, it is usually difficult to make a good connection. Here thick boards should be drilled. As a counseling center we also offer that a father can contact us and also have a look at the bonding issues between the children and how to treat each other well. We are neutral. In individual cases, this offer has already been used.
What wir2 exercises do you remember well?
An exercise with the sunny side, in which the views appear and is followed by positive feedback from the group. Everyone sits in a circle. Mothers don’t know each other very well yet. It’s amazing how accurate and well-meaning words spread through the room. Mothers are overwhelmed with praise. This is a treasure for the participants. We see people thriving here. Spilled pages appear again. Eyes shine. The atmosphere generates positive vibrations in it. The sun really does shine for everyone!
For whom does “wir2” not make sense?
One hurdle for single parents is certainly agreeing to participate in 20 hours over a 20-week period. We make it clear to interested parties in advance: we don’t want randomness, we want commitment, because hours and units depend on each other. If you cannot guarantee continuity here, you should instead use the possibility of individual advice.
The future of wir2 courses often depends on funding options. How is this organized in Paderborn?
Our employer releases us for courses. We do not have to book rooms separately because the courses take place in Catholic daycares. For children, we also use gyms or outdoor playgrounds. Additional financial expenses arise only for childcare. But these costs do not apply to planned online courses.
Rocco Teddy gave the interview in preparation for his book Let’s Not Alone! About single parents in Germany, published by Herder Verlag in 2022.
The print edition of Tagespost complements the current news on die-tagespost.de with background information and analysis.