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July 26, 2012
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What kids want parents to know

As a child and family counselor for 34 years, Sue Polan understands kids.And she's learned that when adults listen to children, they can learn a lot.That's why Polan founded Listen2Kids Productions to create films that allow children to give their perspectives on issues that affect them greatly. So far, Polan has made three films that deal with the issues of divorce; illness in the family; and grief and loss. Polan spent 12 years in private counseling practice and 18 years as a school counselor, including the last 10 years at West Middle School. In 2007, she was named Outstanding Educator of the Year for Mesa County School District 51. She retired from the school district two years ago.Polan was also an in-house counselor for Western Colorado Peds for 10 years, and she continues to teach parenting classes for Mesa County's 21st Judicial District Court. When parents of minor children file for divorce in Colorado, they are court-mandated to attend a divorce-parenting class. Polan found the parenting films that were available for teaching purposes were 20 years old.Although the information was still relevant, the entire class would be laughing over the out-dated styles. "We couldn't get past the hair-dos," Polan said. "I started looking for a new video on kids' perspectives on divorce. I couldn't find any. I looked for two years." So, she decided to make one. And then she produced two additional films - one on grief and loss, and the other about illness in the family. All three films feature Grand Junction children."What sets my films apart is I don't use adults other than the narrator who ties the information together," Polan said. "There are no adults pontificating; no adult experts, only child experts. Kids do the teaching from a childlike perspective. It's disarming, and so beautiful." Polan asks only open-ended questions of the children. The "kids are so real, and so honest," she said.When the kids complete the interviews, they seem to have a "palpable sense of relief and accomplishment that they were able to tell their experience to benefit other people," Polan said. The three 20-minute films will be shown 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 31, at the KAFM Radio Room, as part of the radio station's Lifelong Learning series. A discussion with Polan will follow the showings.The films are geared for anyone with an interest in kids' perspectives on the issues, Polan said.In the films on divorce and illness, the kids' ages are 4 to 18. The film about grief and loss features children ages 4 to 12.Polan formed what she calls the "dream team" with Ed Fortson of Fortcom Communications and Rich Klinzmann at CC Video Productions, both of Grand Junction. In 2010, they produced their first film, "What Parents Need to Know About Divorce."Through word-of-mouth and via trade shows, Polan has sold the film to groups around the country and in Australia. Other court-mandated parenting classes are now showing it in Ohio, Vermont, Nebraska and Idaho.In terms of what kids need when their parents divorce, it hasn't changed much, Polan said."They need their parents not to fight; they need access to a relationship with both of them; and they need to have good modeling," she said.While working for the school system, Polan often worked with Hospice and Palliative Care of Western Colorado when dealing with children who had a seriously ill family member.The film, "Illness in the Family" weaves together kids' stories with art, music and story. Kids talk about how illness in the family has given them "purpose and meaning," and how they "live in hope and ambiguity."In "Grief and Loss; A Child's Perspective," kids show their perspectives and understanding at various developmental life stages. Hospice worked as consultants for "Grief and Loss" - which came out in the spring - and a percentage of its sales benefit the Hospice Child and Teen program in Grand Junction.In the film, children talk about how they do not want to be shielded from death, and they gave ideas of what would be helpful to them when someone they love dies, Polan said. Listen2kids Productions was founded in 2010 as the production arm of Partners in Parenting, a Grand Junction organization co-founded by Polan to teach parenting classes.Polan is currently working on her next film, titled "Siblings of Autism," for which she's currently seeking funding. Another possible future film will be about children of wounded warriors.

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The Post Independent Updated Jul 30, 2012 11:11AM Published Jul 26, 2012 05:14PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.