Support group helps divorced parents move forward

Divorced parents have found help and friendship in a local support group that helps, among other things, find ways to create healthy blended families.

Posted on Feb. 25, 2014 at 4:45 p.m.

Elkhart mom Nicky Oliver, who is divorced, might get married again someday. And if she does, she wants to make sure her two kids are OK with it.

Oliver is dating Steve Rosentreter, also of Elkhart, and he has three kids of his own. The couple is part of the 11 percent of Elkhart County residents who are divorced, according to U.S. Census Bureau numbers from 2012.

They've been dating only seven months, but already Oliver and Rosentreter think often of how their marriage might affect their kids.

"I can get through anything, but this is about my kids, and about his kids," Oliver said. "I don't want to fail."

The two are worried about discipline issues, and concerned that their kids might not get along with each other once they have to start living together.

They've joined a small support group for blended families that meets in a community building in Bristol once a week. The group is led by volunteer Donita Johnson, who said she's been leading groups for local people going through divorce for more than 10 years. 

The group uses a faith-based video curriculum but it's not affiliated with any church. Johnson attends Crossroads Community Church in Goshen, and teaches a weekly Divorce Care class there. Many of the members of the blended families group first met Johnson in Divorce Care.

One man who's been through Divorce Care classes and now attends the blended family group each week said he found Johnson and her classes through a simple Google search.

"When I found out I was getting a divorce, I felt a sense of loneliness that I've never felt before," Ben Polasky said. 

He knew he would need help with some of the changes happening in his life. One of those changes was going from being a stay-at-home dad to a dad who sees his kids only a few days a week.

Polasky is not in a relationship now, but said, "I'm a young guy — I know I will be."

When that happens, he wants to handle the relationship with care around his two children, who are 6 and 2 years old. He knows from personal experience the pain some kids go through when they see their parents dating someone new.

"My parents were divorced, and it hurt me when I would get to know (a possible stepparent) and then they would leave," Polasky said. 

Adam Miller, who's currently going through a divorce, said he joined the group because he wants to have a better relationship with his children. He's quiet, and was initially worried about speaking up in a group of strangers. But those strangers quickly became a strong support system.

"The most important thing I've gotten from this class is not the material, it's the friendship with other members," Miller said.

Johnson said that the support group — called Smart Step Families — is open to anyone who wants support with their divorce, remarriage or blended family. There is a small fee for the class, which goes to pay for the cost of the videos and use of the facility, she said.

The group meets every Tuesday evening from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Open Door Center at the corner of S.R. 120 and S.R. 15 in Bristol. For more information call Johnson at 848-0891.


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