GINGER: Our goal with the Erasing Family Film is not to prevent divorce but to let parents know that there are lasting consequences for kids. Divorce is one ACES score but add domestic violence and not being able to see a parent, and you now have three. We want parents to know that badmouthing the other parent or “erasing them” is traumatic. The film is also designed to show erased parents how to reunite with their adult children and help teens have an “aha moment” that allows them to reconnect.
SFBAM: If a separation/divorce is contentious, especially at first, what do you recommend parents do to lower the stress levels for everyone?
GINGER: Let the fights go and only focus on key issues. Fighting is a way to stay emotionally involved and married psychologically. You can’t change your ex’s behavior only how you show up. And stay out of family court–chose mediation or collaborative law (where each party has a lawyer, but they agree not to go to trial) instead.
SFBAM: What if there is a stepparent or significant other involved in the divorce? What role should they, or should they not play?
GINGER: The stepparent should be involved but not replace the role of the parent. The worse thing they can do is say “call me mom” or the other parent to say, “this is your new daddy”.
SFBAM: Tell me more about parallel parenting.
GINGER: Parallel parenting is when parents share custody and near equal parenting time after divorce or separation but due to high conflict, they keep communication to a minimum. This means that each household has its own rules, if one is vegan and one eats McDonalds that is ok. I have seen so much conflict between parents who don’t like the other parent’s parenting style, but that style isn’t harming the child. Pick your battles!
SFBAM: What resources are available for parents who are going through a divorce?
GINGER: There are tons available right now and we put the best on our website www.erasingfamily.org I really suggest the work of Bill Eddy on how to deescalate conflict and Josh Coleman an author and psychologist who is based in the Bay Area who helps parents reunite with their adult children.
SFBAM: What resources are available for children?
GINGER: Very little! That is why we created a free text line (865)4FAMILY that kids and teens can text to talk with a professional free of charge. We also have a Bill of Rights for kids of divorce that we would like to have distributed in every school. Learn more at www.erasingfamily.org
SFBAM: You advocate for having better laws and court systems that discourage fighting and encourage healing. What does that look like and how do we get there?
GINGER: The film Erasing Family shows that right now a vast majority of Americans support equal shared parenting (joint custody being the default option when both parents are fit) and that there are many bills, but except for Kentucky they are all being blocked. Why? Because the state bar associations are against shared parenting as it would prevent custody battles that earn their members a lot of money.
I believe that family courts should be completely reformed and ideally abolished. An adversarial process does not help families heal. Until that happens the best bet is education: teaching kids how to form healthy relationships and letting parents know that there are healthier ways to divorce than “lawyering up”.
The documentary Erasing Family is an important first step to raise awareness and we are arranging virtual (and later in-person) screenings at high schools, universities (which is important because they are the professionals of tomorrow and the erased kids of today), professional associations and taking this message to corporations so their HR departments can accompany employees during divorce.
Ginger Gentile is an activist documentary filmmaker dedicated to addressing ignored issues and shedding light on solutions. With her documentary, Erasing Family, which premiered at Lincoln Center in 2019, she exposed the trauma children suffer when a loving parent is erased by the divorce courts, a problem that affects over 22 million families in the US alone. For her work in reuniting families, Gentile was named an Architect of Change by Maria Shriver and has given talks at SXSW 2019, the Simply Parent Conference and on numerous podcasts and TV shows.