Couples divorcing in Coldwater, Michigan, must attend a court ordered educational program to draw attention to the effects their decisions have on their children, according to the Daily Reporter.

Branch County officials are running the program, dubbed SMILE, or “start making it livable for everyone.” Parents learn about how their marital conflicts affect their offspring and how to best manage the dissolution of their marriages. Not all unions can be saved, but the community in Coldwater is hoping to minimize the impact on the littlest divorce bystanders.

In a recent column for the Huffington Post, child psychologist Joseph Nowinski explained that some key factors can help children survive the emotional impact of a divorce. While he says that divorce “represents a crisis of major proportions for children,” this life change does not have to result in depression, low self-esteem and other issues.

One way parents can spare their children a lot of pain is to resolve conflicts in a counselor’s office rather than in front of the kids. Even before a divorce occurs, relationship issues should be tackled out of view from children.

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